In some bibles,

Matthew 9:13 Go and learn what the Scriptures mean when they say, 'Instead of offering sacrifices to me, I want you to be merciful to others.' I didn't come to invite good people to be my followers. I came to invite sinners."

is referred back to

Hosea 6:6 I'd rather for you to be faithful and to know me than to offer sacrifices.

In Hosea 6:6 God is talking about faithfulness to Him. But in Mathew 9:13 Jesus is talking about being merciful to others.

So is Jesus really quoting Hosea 6:6 in Mathrew 9:13? If yes how can this be understood? If no then which scripture is Jesus quoting in Mathew 9:13

  • @DerÜbermensch Not sure why you say that. My impression is that the meaning "covenant loyalty" for ḥesed in contexts like this is pretty standard. (Seems to me like the mistake was at the level of the LXX, and the Matthew just went with it. This particular translation of Matthew accentuates the difference by adding "to others", but that's presumably what the Gospel writer had in mind.)
    – Susan
    Dec 31, 2018 at 3:57
  • I was under the impression that the predominant meaning was “mercy.” Why do you suppose that “I desired mercy” is incorrect? Obviously, with that translation, it does not mean that God desires humans to be merciful to him, but rather, to other humans. Hence, Matthew 12:7: “But if you had known what this means: I desired mercy and not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the guiltless.” (cf. Matthew 23:3) Dec 31, 2018 at 4:14
  • @DerÜbermensch Interesting, I guess the essence of this question may boil down to the intended meaning of ḥesed in Hosea, so we should probably let answers address that. (But yes, for the record, like the OP and the cited translation, I would read the Hebrew of Hos 6:6 -- in isolation but even more so in context -- as Yahweh demanding loyalty to himself rather than an interpersonal injunction. I could be wrong.)
    – Susan
    Dec 31, 2018 at 6:14

2 Answers 2


The title of the question is:

Are Hosea 6:6 and Matthew 9:13 connected?

Insofar as “connected” means “related, associated (in nature or idea),”1 I would have to answer in the affirmative since Matthew 9:13 appears to be a direct quotation of Hosea 6:6. That Matthew 9:13 is a quotation is further substantiated by the phrase “If you had known what this means” (εἰ δὲ ἐγνώκειτε τί ἐστιν) in Matthew 12:7.

Hosea 6:6 and Matthew 9:13

I suppose this leads us to the next question,

Does the Lord Jesus Christ appropriately quote Hosea 6:6?

To answer this, we examine the Book of Hosea.

In Hosea 4:1–2, it is written,

1 Hear the word of Yahveh, O’ children of Israel, for Yahveh has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. 2 Cursing,2 and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery! They break out, and blood touches blood.

א שִׁמְעוּ דְבַר יַהְוֶה בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל כִּי רִיב לַיהְוֶה עִם יוֹשְׁבֵי הָאָרֶץ כִּי אֵין אֱמֶת וְאֵין חֶסֶד וְאֵין דַּעַת אֱלֹהִים בָּאָרֶץ ב אָלֹה וְכַחֵשׁ וְרָצֹחַ וְגָנֹב וְנָאֹף פָּרָצוּ וְדָמִים בְּדָמִים נָגָעוּ

That there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land is evidenced by the presence of cursing, lying, killing, stealing, and committing adultery in the land. These acts are violations of the Torah, the covenant between God and Israel.

Accordingly, in Hosea 6:7–8, it is written,

7 But they as men3 have transgressed [the] covenant. There they dealt treacherously against Me. 8 Gilʿad is a city of workers of iniquity; it is covered with footprints of blood.

Men transgressed the covenant (the Torah) by committing acts of sin, which is the transgression of the Torah.4 These acts included cursing, lying, killing, stealing, and adultery. There was so much violence that the prophet portrays the city as “covered with footprints of blood.”

Such violence also existed during the days of Jesus. Indeed, in the Talmud, the rabbis relate that the cause for the destruction of the second Temple (in 70 A.D.) was שנאת חנםת—“hatred without cause,”5 which the rabbis say the Torah equates in gravity to “idol worship, forbidden sexual relations, and murder.”6

Therefore, the Lord Jesus Christ does quote Hosea 6:6 appropriately. God “desired mercy and not sacrifice.” This does not mean God wants people to be merciful (i.e., show mercy) to Him. Rather, He wants people to be merciful towards one another, by keeping the covenant they made with Him. For example, when the Torah commands people to love one another, and people keep this commandment, then they simultaneously keep the covenant with Yahveh.

For this reason, the Lord Jesus Christ said,7

7 But if you had known what this means, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice,” you would not have condemned the guiltless. NKJV, ©1982

Judging righteously is another means by which people (i.e., the judges) show mercy to others8 while keeping the covenant (i.e., obeying the Torah).


1 Oxford English Dictionary (online), “connected,” 3.
2 i.e., placing people under a curse
3 or, “like Adam”
4 cf. 1 John 3:4
5 Babylonian Talmud, Seder Moʿed, Tractate Yoma, Chapter 1, Folio 9b, Gemara; cf. Jerusalem Talmud, Seder Moʿed, Tractate Yoma, Chapter 1, Halakha 1, Folio 4b, Gemara
6 ibid. (Jerusalem)
7 Matt. 12:7
8 cf. Zec. 7:9


Three texts refer to the same idea

“In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required.” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭40:6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭51:16‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of G d rather than burnt offerings.” ‭‭Hosea‬ ‭6:6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I don’t know what you are trying to understand by the word ^mercy^ you reference in that translation but it is not toward people but toward G d. חֵסֵד chesed or kindness. The Matthew text in your translation says to show mercy toward people but the text in Hosea in the Hebrew says towards G d

Jesus is instructing people to have intimacy with G d and not use sacrifices as an excuse to gain right standing with G d based on technicality by receiving forgiveness of sins without then going further as was the purpose of the sacrifice which was to bring you closer to G d.

G d is not so much interested in forgiving us as He is having a relationship with us. That’s why He is interested in the sinners because He already has relationship with the righteous.

Unfortunately the Jews took it as an obligation to keep holy through sacrifices rather than to draw near to G d. They avoided G d because they were too afraid to sin against Him. They kept holy not because they wanted to be intimate with a Holy G d but because they didn’t want to lose any benefits gained through holy living or for fear of punishment. That’s not the same as knowing G d and it’s not a relationship nor the purpose of the sacrifice per se.

Jesus is saying G d didn’t desire sacrifices He desired created men to be merciful toward G d and not think of G d as a tyrannical unapproachable G d. G d wanted to be known by His creation. Sacrifices were instituted to give men back that connection they lost, sacrifices were not instituted to do sacrifices for sacrifices sake.

Imagine G d saying I didn’t desire sacrifices I desired relationship, I desired that you might know Me, I wanted you to be merciful and kind in your thoughts about Me

  • So for the sake of clarity, are you saying in Hosea 6:6 God is asking man to show mercy to God by having positive thoughts about God in Man's mind? Dec 31, 2018 at 11:59
  • Something like that sure. He is saying look beyond the sacrifices, see them merely as a bridge to reconnect with G d and try to get to know G d who is so OTHER. Go back to the state before sin, G d created man for fellowship, He didn’t create man for offering sacrifices. That’s why Jesus says I’m hanging out with the sinners because they need to know that G d loves them and wants to have fellowship with man. Except sin has placed a wall between G d and man and has severed the relationship, but G d is not harsh towards man per se, G d is harsh toward sin. See the difference and know G d loves. Dec 31, 2018 at 13:23

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