Hosea 6:6
For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.
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(6) Mercy.—Better rendered, love. This passage is richly sustained by our Lord’s adoption of its teaching (Matthew 9:13; Matthew 12:7). Mark 12:33 shows that according to even Old Testament teaching, the moral ranks above the ceremonial, that ritual is valueless apart from spiritual conformity with Divine will.

Hosea 6:6. For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice — That is, rather than sacrifice, this being spoken comparatively. I am better pleased with true goodness than with the most exact observance of the external duties of religion: see Micah 6:6-8. The Jews use to express comparison by negatives, or rejecting the thing less worthy: so we are to understand that expression of the Prophet Joel 2:13, Rend your heart, and not your garments; and those words of Christ, John 6:27, Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that which endureth to everlasting life: that is, for this rather than the former. By mercy is here meant, not only all that is due from man to man, considered as fellow-creatures, and members of civil society; but also those acts of benevolence, which, though not claimable on principles of justice, yet must be performed by us, as we have opportunity, if we would be the children of our Father who is in heaven: see Matthew 5:45. Indeed, the word חסד, here used, and rendered mercy, includes piety toward God, as well as benevolence to man; or the performance of all the duties of the moral law. “I can find no single word,” says Bishop Horsley, “to answer to it, but charity; for charity, in the evangelical sense, is the love of man, founded upon the love of God, and arising out of it.” And the knowledge of God more than burnt-offerings — Namely, that knowledge of God, which is his super natural gift, through the influence of his enlightening Spirit, Ephesians 1:17; and which is always productive of a filial confidence in him, love to him, and obedience to his commandments; (see Psalm 9:10; 1 John 2:3-4; 1 John 4:7-8;) and which is always attended with a true, sincere, internal, spiritual worship of him, and reverence for him. This is infinitely more pleasing to God, and more essential to true religion, than any ceremonial observances whatever; yea, than all sacrifices and burnt-offerings.6:4-11 Sometimes Israel and Judah seemed disposed to repent under their sufferings, but their goodness vanished like the empty morning cloud, and the early dew, and they were as vile as ever. Therefore the Lord sent awful messages by the prophets. The word of God will be the death either of the sin or of the sinner. God desired mercy rather than sacrifice, and that knowledge of him which produces holy fear and love. This exposes the folly of those who trust in outward observances, to make up for their want of love to God and man. As Adam broke the covenant of God in paradise, so Israel had broken his national covenant, notwithstanding all the favours they received. Judah also was ripe for Divine judgments. May the Lord put his fear into our hearts, and set up his kingdom within us, and never leave us to ourselves, nor suffer us to be overcome by temptation.I hate, I despise your solemn feast days,

And I will not smell in your solemn assemblies;

Though ye offer me your burnt-offerings,

And your meat-offerings

I will not accept them;

Neither will I regard the thank-offerings of your fat beasts.

Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs;

For I will not hear the melody of thy viols.

But let judgment run down as waters,

And righteousness as a mighty stream.

6. mercy—put for piety in general, of which mercy or charity is a branch.

not sacrifice—that is, "rather than sacrifice." So "not" is merely comparative (Ex 16:8; Joe 2:13; Joh 6:27; 1Ti 2:14). As God Himself instituted sacrifices, it cannot mean that He desired them not absolutely, but that even in the Old Testament, He valued moral obedience as the only end for which positive ordinances, such as sacrifices, were instituted—as of more importance than a mere external ritual obedience (1Sa 15:22; Ps 50:8, 9; 51:16; Isa 1:11, 12; Mic 6:6-8; Mt 9:13; 12:7).

knowledge of God—experimental and practical, not merely theoretical (Ho 6:3; Jer 22:16; 1Jo 2:3, 4). "Mercy" refers to the second table of the law, our duty to our fellow man; "the knowledge of God" to the first table, our duty to God, including inward spiritual worship. The second table is put first, not as superior in dignity, for it is secondary, but in the order of our understanding.

I so hewed and slew them, because they did not what I most of all required, approved, and could accept of; they were full of sacrifices, and spared them not, but either to idols, or else in formality and pride. These sacrificers were either abominable idolaters, as were they of Ephraim, or proud hypocrites, as were too many of Judah.

I desired mercy; compassion and charity towards men, this one principal duty of the second table put for all works of godly humanity, pleaseth me, in this I delight. I had found little of this among you, nor could I persuade you to it; though this was it that I required, Micah 6:8.

And not sacrifice; rather than, or more than, sacrifice, for it is not an absolute, but a comparative negative. Mercy to man who needed it, without a sacrifice to me who need it not, was more pleasing than a sacrifice (though required) with cruelty to man, which I forbade.

The knowledge of God more than burnt-offerings: hearty, affectionate knowledge of God, which fills the mind with reverence of his majesty, fear of his goodness, love of his holiness, trust in his promise, and submission to his will; knowledge of God’s law, the rule of our obedience, of his favour, the reward of our obedience, and knowledge of his omniscience, discerning and judging it, with those excellent effects, proper fruits hereof; are more than all sacrifice, as though they were burnt-sacrifices, which of all other were entirely given to God. But truth is, who knows God aright, and doth keep his heart for God, gives God more than he that brings whole burnt-offerings; for these are but ceremonies and signs, empty and insipid to God, without the heart. In short, these people acted all so contrary to this temper of their God, gave him so much of that he valued not, and so little of that he did most value, that he could not be too severe against them, nor is it any wonder he was so displeased with their sacrifices. For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice,.... That is, the one rather than the other, as the next clause explains it. Sacrifices were of early use, even before the law of Moses; they were of divine appointment, and were approved and accepted of by the Lord; they were types of Christ, and led to him, and were continued unto his death; but in comparison of moral duties, which respect love to God, and to our neighbour, the Lord did not will them, desire them, and delight in them; or he had more regard for the former than the latter; see 1 Samuel 15:22; nor did he will or accept at all of the sacrifices ordered to the calves at Dan and Bethel; nor others, when they were not such as the law required, or were not offered up in the faith of Christ, attended with repentance for sin, and in sincerity, and were brought as real expiatory sacrifices for sin, and especially as now abrogated by the sacrifice of Christ. And as these words are twice quoted by our Lord, at one time to justify his mercy, pity, and compassion, to the souls of poor sinners, by conversing with them, Matthew 9:13; and at another time to justify the disciples in an act of mercy to their bodies when hungry, by plucking ears of corn on the sabbath day, Matthew 12:7; "mercy" may here respect both acts of mercy shown by the Lord, and acts of mercy done by men; both which the Lord wills, desires, and delights in: he takes pleasure in showing mercy himself, as appears by his free and open declarations of it; by the throne of grace and mercy he has set up; by the encouragement he gives to souls to hope in his mercy; by the objects of it, the chief of sinners; by the various ways he has taken to display it, in election, in the covenant of grace, in the mission of Christ, in the pardon of sin by him, and in regeneration; and by his opposing it to everything else, in the affair of salvation. And he likewise has a very great regard to mercy as exercised by men; as this is one of the weightier matters of the law, and may be put for the whole of it, or however the second table of it, which is love to our neighbours, and takes in all kind offices done to them; and especially designs acts of liberality to necessitous persons; which are sacrifices God is well pleased with, even more than with the ceremonious ones; these being such in which men resemble him the merciful God, who is kind to the unthankful, and to the evil;

and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings; which were reckoned the greatest and most excellent sacrifices, the whole being the Lord's; but knowledge of God is preferred to them; by which is meant, not the knowledge of God, the light of nature, which men might have, and not him; nor by the law of Moses, as a lawgiver, judge, and consuming fire; but a knowledge of him in Christ, as the God and Father of Christ, as the God of all grace, gracious and merciful in him; as a covenant God and Father in him, which is through the Gospel by the Spirit, and is eternal life, John 17:3; this includes in it faith and hope in God, love to him, fear of him and his goodness, and the whole worship of him, both internal and external. These words seem designed to expose and remove the false ground of trust and confidence in sacrifices the people of Israel were prone unto; as we find they were in the times of Isaiah, who was contemporary with Hoses; see Isaiah 1:12. The Targum interprets them of those that exercise mercy, and do the law of the Lord.

For I desired {f} mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.

(f) He shows to what his doctrine was aimed at, that they should unite the obedience of God, and the love of their neighbour, with outward sacrifices.

6. A further explanation of these severe judgments, the moral effect of which the prophet has been considering.

For I desired mercy and not sacrifice] Rather, for I delight in piety and not in sacrifice. The Hebrew is vague; khésedh ‘dutiful love’ may mean either ‘piety’ or ‘kindness’,—love to God or love to man. The parallel clause favours the former, the context at first sight the latter; but we may keep ‘piety’, for both love to God and the knowledge of God are regarded as leading to the imitation of God’s φιλανθρωπία (comp. Jeremiah 22:16 ‘was not this to know me’, and 2 Samuel 9:3 ‘that I may show the kindness of God unto him’). As Aben Ezra well remarks, it is stedfast love which the prophet means, not that which is like a cloud (Hosea 6:4). ‘And not sacrifice’ = ‘rather than sacrifice’; the prophet thinks comparatively little of sacrifices, but does not denounce them as positively displeasing to God. Comp. Isaiah 1:11-20; Micah 6:6-8; Jeremiah 7:22-23 (though this is of doubtful interpretation). The sacrifices alluded to are those which the Israelites will at a future time offer in the vain hope of propitiating Jehovah (Hosea 5:6). This first half of the verse is twice quoted by our Lord (Matthew 9:13; Matthew 12:7). A striking parallel occurs in a saying ascribed to Buddha, who, however, unlike our Lord, denounced animal sacrifices as in themselves wrong: ‘If a man live a hundred years, and engage the whole of his time and attention in religious offerings to the gods, sacrificing elephants and horses, and other life, all this is not equal to one act of pure love in saving life’ (Beal’s Texts from the Buddhist Canon).When Daniel heard the voice, which according to v. 6 was like the noise of a multitude, he was stunned, and fell on his face to the ground, as Daniel 8:17. Yet the expression here, נרדּם הייתי, is stronger than נבעתּי, Daniel 8:17. Daniel 10:10 shows how great was his amazement in the further description it gives. The touching of him by an unseen hand raised him up and caused him to reel on his knees and hands (תּניעני, vacillare me fecit), but did not enable him to stand erect. This he was first able to do after he heard the comfortable words, and was directed to mark the communication of the heavenly messenger. Regarding חמות אישׁ see under Daniel 9:23, and for עמדך על עמד see at Daniel 8:18. He now raises himself up, but still trembling (מרעיד). The עתּה now am I sent to thee, points to the delay of his coming spoken of in Daniel 10:12.
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