1. Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
[Ten virgins.] The nation of the Jews delighted mightily in the number ten, both in sacred and civil matters: A synagogue consisted not but of ten at the least: which we have observed before, when we spoke about synagogues. This also was current among them, An order or ring of men consisted not but of ten at the least. The text is speaking of a company to comfort mourners: which the Gloss thus describes, “When the company was returned from burying a dead body, they set themselves in order about the mourners, and comforted them: but now such an order or ring consisted of ten at the least.” To this commonly received number there seems to be an alluding in this place: not but that they very frequently exceeded that number of virgins in weddings of greater note, but rarely came short of it.
[To meet the bridegroom.] To go to a wedding was reckoned among the works of mercy.
“The shewing of mercy implies two things: 1. That one should assist an Israelite with one’s wealth, namely, by alms and redeeming of captives. 2. That one should assist him in one’s own person; to wit, by comforting the mourners, by attending the dead to burial, and by being present at the chambers of bridegrooms.” The presence of virgins also adorned the pomp and festivity of the thing. Marriages are called by the Rabbins receivings, &c. The introducing of the bride, namely, into the house of her husband. There were no marriages but of such as had been before betrothed; and, after the betrothing, the bridegroom might not lie with the bride in his father-in-law’s house before he had brought her to his own. That ‘bringing’ of her was the consummation of the marriage. This parable supposeth that the bride was thus fetched to the house of her husband, and that the virgins were ready against her coming; who yet, being either fetched a great way, or some accident happening to delay her, did not come till midnight.
[Took lamps.] The form of lamps is described by Rambam and R. Solomon, whom see. These things are also mentioned by R. Solomon: “It is the fashion in the country of the Ismaelites to carry the bride from the house of her father to the house of the bridegroom before she is put to bed; and to carry before her about ten wooden staves, having each of them on the top a vessel like a dish, in which there is a piece of cloth with oil and pitch: these, being lighted, they carry before her for torches.”
2. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
[Five wise; Five foolish.] A parable, not unlike this, is produced by Kimchi: “Rabban Jochanan Ben Zaccai saith (as he hath it), This thing is like a king, who invited his servants, but did not appoint them any set time. Those of them that were wise adorned themselves, and sat at the gate of the palace; those that were foolish were about their own business. The king on a sudden called for his servants: those went in adorned; these, undressed. The king was pleased with the wise, and angry at the foolish.”
5. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
[They all slumbered and slept.] “If some sleep” [while they celebrate the paschal supper], “let them eat; if all, let them not eat. R. Josi saith, Do they slumber? let them eat. Do they sleep? let them not eat.” The Gemarists inquire, “Whence a man is to be reputed as a slumberer? R. Ishi saith, He sleeps and doth not sleep, he wakes and is not awake. If you call him, he answers; but he cannot answer to the purpose.” The Gloss, “If you speak to him, he will answer yes, or no; but if you ask any thing that hath need of thinking; as, for instance, where such a vessel is laid up? he cannot answer you.”
15. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.
[And unto one he gave five talents, &c.] You have a like and almost the same parable, Luke 19; yet, indeed, not the very same; for, besides that there is mention there of pounds being given, here of talents,–that parable was spoken by Christ, going up from Jericho to Jerusalem, before the raising up of Lazarus; this, as he was sitting on Mount Olivet, three days before the Passover. That, upon this account, “because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear,” Luke 19:11, and that he might shew that it would not be long before Jerusalem should be called to an account for all the privileges and benefits conferred upon it by God (see verses the fourteenth and seventeenth); but this, that he might warn all to be watchful, and provide with their utmost care concerning giving up their accounts at the last judgment.
27. Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.
[Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, &c.] The lord did not deliver the talents to his servants with that intent, that they should receive the increase and profit of them by usury; but that, by merchandise and some honest way of trade, they should increase them. He only returns this answer to the slothful servant, as fitted to what he had alleged; “You take me for a covetous, griping, and sordid man: why then did you not make use of a manner of gain agreeable to these qualities, namely, interest or usury (since you would not apply yourself to any honest traffic), that you might have returned me some increase of my money, rather than nothing at all?” So that our Lord, in these words, doth not so much approve of usury, as upbraid the folly and sloth of his servant.
Exchangers, answering to the word trapezita very usual among the Talmudists: “An exchanger (trapezita) sells money; and because a table is always before him, upon which he buys and sells, therefore he is called mensarius,” one that stands at a table.
Of the same employment was the shopkeeper of whom is as frequent mention among them. He exercised the employment of a usurer in buying and changing of fruits, as the other in money: for in these two especially consisted usury: of which you may see, if you please, the tract Bava Mezia.