to take your wife Mary home: According to Jewish custom, marriage began when a couple became engaged. The wedding formalities were completed when the husband took his bride to live in his own home. This event usually took place on a set day and was accompanied by a celebration. The man thereby publicly declared that he was taking the woman as his marriage partner. The marriage was thus made known, acknowledged, and recorded and was binding.—Ge 24:67; see study notes on Mt 1:18, 19.
ten virgins . . . to meet the bridegroom: In Bible times, an important feature of the marriage ceremony was the solemn procession to bring the bride from her father’s home to the home of her bridegroom or the bridegroom’s father. The bridegroom, wearing his best clothing and escorted by his friends, would leave his house in the evening for the home of the bride’s parents. From there, accompanied by musicians and singers and usually by people carrying lamps, the couple made their way toward the bridegroom’s home. The people along the route would take great interest in the procession. (Isa 62:5; Jer 7:34; 16:9) Young women carrying lamps were apparently among those joining the procession. As there was no particular haste, the procession might be delayed, so that some waiting along the way would get drowsy and fall asleep. The long waiting period might require refilling with oil the lamps carried in the procession. Singing and exultation would be heard quite a distance away. Then, after the bridegroom and his entourage entered the house and closed the door, it was too late for tardy guests to enter.—Mt 25:5-12; see study note on Mt 1:20.
discreet: The Greek word used here conveys the idea of understanding associated with insight, forethought, discernment, prudence, and wisdom in a practical sense. The same Greek word is used at Mt 7:24 and 25:2, 4, 8, 9. The Septuagint uses this word at Ge 41:33, 39 regarding Joseph.
discreet: Or “wise.”—See study note on Mt 24:45.
put their lamps in order: Evidently referring to what needed to be done, including trimming the wicks and adding oil so that the lamps would burn brightly.
Keep on the watch: The Greek term has the basic meaning “stay (keep) awake,” but in many contexts it means “be on guard; be watchful.” Matthew uses this term at Mt 24:43; 25:13; 26:38, 40, 41. At Mt 24:44, he connects it with the need to be “ready.”—See study note on Mt 26:38.
keep on the watch: Lit., “stay awake.” Jesus had emphasized the need for his disciples to stay awake spiritually because of not knowing the day and hour of his coming. (See study notes on Mt 24:42; 25:13.) He repeats that exhortation here and again at Mt 26:41, where he links staying awake spiritually with persevering in prayer. Similar exhortations are found throughout the Christian Greek Scriptures, showing that spiritual alertness is vital for true Christians.—1Co 16:13; Col 4:2; 1Th 5:6; 1Pe 5:8; Re 16:15.
talents: A Greek talent was, not a coin, but a unit of weight and money. One Greek silver talent equaled 20.4 kg (654 oz t) and was worth approximately 6,000 drachmas or Roman denarii. It was the equivalent of about 20 years’ wages for a common laborer.—See App. B14.
money: Lit., “silver,” that is, silver used as money.
hid your talent in the ground: Evidence of this practice is seen in the large quantities of valuables and coins unearthed by both archaeologists and farmers in Bible lands.
bankers . . . interest: During the first century C.E., moneylenders, or bankers, were prominent in Israel and surrounding nations. The Law forbade the Israelites from charging interest on loans to needy fellow Jews (Ex 22:25), but interest was specifically allowed on loans to foreigners, likely for business ventures (De 23:20). In Jesus’ day, it was evidently common to receive interest on funds deposited with moneylenders.
gnashing of their teeth: Or “grinding (clenching) their teeth.” The expression can include the idea of anguish, despair, and anger, possibly accompanied by bitter words and violent action.
gnashing of his teeth: See study note on Mt 8:12.
Son of man: Or “Son of a human.” This expression occurs about 80 times in the Gospels. Jesus used it to refer to himself, evidently emphasizing that he was truly human, born from a woman, and that he was a fitting human counterpart to Adam, having the power to redeem humankind from sin and death. (Ro 5:12, 14-15) The same expression also identified Jesus as the Messiah, or the Christ.—Da 7:13, 14; see Glossary.
coming: The first of eight references in Matthew chapters 24 and 25 to Jesus’ coming. (Mt 24:42, 44, 46; 25:10, 19, 27, 31) In each of these occurrences, a form of the Greek verb erʹkho·mai, “to come,” is used. The term is here used in the sense of turning one’s attention to mankind, particularly to Jesus’ coming as Judge to pronounce and execute judgment during the great tribulation.
just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats: Jesus here refers to a scene familiar to his listeners. In Bible times, shepherds cared for mixed flocks. (Ge 30:32, 33; 31:38) Sheep and goats commonly grazed together in the Middle East, and the shepherd could easily identify the two kinds of animals when he wanted to separate them. This separation may have been done for a variety of reasons. For example, it may have been for pasturing, breeding, milking, shearing, slaughtering, or even helping the animals to group together to stay warm at night. Whatever the case, this illustration well describes the clear separation that will take place when “the Son of man comes in his glory.”—Mt 25:31.
on his right hand . . . on his left: In some contexts, both positions indicate honor and authority (Mt 20:21, 23), but the place of greatest honor is always on the right (Ps 110:1; Ac 7:55, 56; Ro 8:34). However, here and at Mt 25:34, 41, there is a clear contrast between the place of favor at the King’s right hand and that of disfavor at his left.—Compare Ec 10:2, ftns.
the goats: Although Jesus is referring to people who do not support his spiritual brothers, he is not necessarily using “goats” in this illustration because of some negative characteristic that these animals demonstrate. While it is true that goats display a more independent and, at times, more stubborn nature than sheep do, they were nevertheless clean animals for the Jews and could be used in place of sheep for the Passover meal. (Ex 12:5; De 14:4) Additionally, the Mosaic Law required that on the annual Day of Atonement, the blood of a goat be used to make atonement for the sins of Israel. (Le 16:7-27) Jesus seems merely to be using the goats to represent one class of people and the sheep to represent another class.—Mt 25:32.
inherit: The basic meaning of the Greek verb is for an heir to receive something as a right, often because of relationship, such as a son receiving an inheritance from his father. (Ga 4:30) But here, as in most occurrences in the Christian Greek Scriptures, the term is used in the broader sense of receiving something as a reward from God.—Mt 19:29; 1Co 6:9.
the Kingdom: In the Bible, the term “kingdom” is used in several different ways, including “the region or country governed by a king,” “kingly power,” “a realm,” and “being ruled by a king.” Here it is evidently used in the sense of receiving the benefits or blessings of being ruled by God’s Kingdom and enjoying life within its realm.
founding of the world: The Greek word for “founding” is rendered “to conceive” at Heb 11:11, where it is used with “offspring.” Here used in the expression “founding of the world,” it apparently refers to the conception and birth of children born to Adam and Eve. Jesus associates “the founding of the world” with Abel, evidently the first redeemable human of the world of mankind whose name was written in the scroll of life from “the founding of the world.”—Lu 11:50, 51; Re 17:8.
naked: Or “not sufficiently dressed.” The Greek word gy·mnosʹ can have the meaning “lightly clad; in the undergarment only.”—Jas 2:15, ftn.
Truly: Greek, a·menʹ, a transliteration of the Hebrew ʼa·menʹ, meaning “so be it,” or “surely.” Jesus frequently uses this expression to preface a statement, a promise, or a prophecy, thereby emphasizing its absolute truthfulness and reliability. Jesus’ use of “truly,” or amen, in this way is said to be unique in sacred literature. When repeated in succession (a·menʹ a·menʹ), as is the case throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus’ expression is translated “most truly.”—See study note on Joh 1:51.
Truly: See study note on Mt 5:18.
brothers: The plural form of the Greek word for “brother” can refer to both men and women.
cutting-off: That is, from life. The Greek word koʹla·sis is used of “pruning” or “lopping off” needless branches from trees. This “cutting-off” would be “everlasting,” since the person would be cut off from life with no hope of a resurrection.
A farmer used a winnowing shovel to hurl threshed grain into the air. The heavy grain fell to the floor, and the lighter chaff blew away in the breeze. He repeated the action over and over until all the grain was separated.