Jesus said to go figure out what "I desire mercy, not sacrifice" means, and didn't explain it himself.

So, what does this mean?

Matthew 9:13, NASB - But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Matthew 12:7, NASB - But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.

1 Samuel 15:22, NKJV - So Samuel said: “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams.

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    Jesus is not quoting Samuel but Hosea 6.6, "I desire chesed ("kindness/love/mercy/loyalty") and not sacrifice. The knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings."
    – Robert
    Commented Sep 2, 2021 at 3:02
  • This isn't really even a religious or biblical question. Which would make your spouse happier, your begging for forgiveness or your behaving correctly in the first place? Commented Sep 2, 2021 at 12:47
  • It simply means that you cannot buy sins with sacrificial offering. True Sacrifice is reparation restitution and includes repentance. It is better to obey and repent than to offer sacrifices while disobeying as faithless, wicked transgressor or lawless. God does not take delight in sacrifices but in obedience righteousness. Righteousness alone is the goal of sacrifice- which means you will not sin again, reminding you the dangerous conseq of sin.
    – Michael16
    Commented Sep 2, 2021 at 14:39

1 Answer 1


This verse is bigger than the translations. If you ask me which is right, I have to say all of them. The Hebrew word hesed (חֶ֔סֶד) doesn't translate to one English word. Knowledge of God means to be acquainted with God as your are with family or friend.

   For I desire goodness, not sacrifice; 
  Obedience to God, rather than burnt offerings. 
               (Hos. 6:6, JPS)

        For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, 
  the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. 
               (Hos. 6:6, ESV)

כִּ֛י חֶ֥סֶד חָפַ֖צְתִּי וְלֹא־זָ֑בַח וְדַ֥עַת אֱלֹהִ֖ים מֵעֹלֹֽות׃ (Hos. 6:6, MT)

Senses of חֶ֥סֶד

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Note these related verses.

   He has told you, O man, what is good; 
  and what does the LORD require of you 
              but to do justice, and to love kindness (חֶ֔סֶד), 
  and to walk humbly with your God? 
           (Mic. 6:8, ESV)

Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me (וְיָדֹ֣עַ), that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love (חֶ֛סֶד), justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight (חָפַ֖צְתִּי), declares the LORD.” (Jer. 9:23–24, ESV)

Moses said to the LORD, “See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ 13 Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” 14 And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:12–14, ESV)

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