But go you and learn what that means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Go ye and learn.—The words of Hosea 6:6—cited once again by our Lord in reference to the Sabbath (Matthew 12:7)—asserted the superiority of ethical to ceremonial law. To have withdrawn from contact with sinners would have been a formal “sacrifice,” such as Pharisees delighted to offer, and from which they took their very name; but the claims or “mercy” were higher, and bade Him mingle with them. It was the very purpose of His coming, not to call “righteous men” (again with studied reference to their own estimate of themselves), but “sinners,” and to call them, not to continue as they were, but, as St. Luke adds (the words are wanting in the best MSS. here and also in St. Mark), “to repentance.” We may, perhaps, infer further, that when the scribes were told to consider what the prophet’s words meant, there was also some reference to the context of those words. They would find their own likeness in the words, “Your goodness is as a morning cloud; . . . they . . . have transgressed the covenant; there have they dealt treacherously against me” (Hosea 6:4; Hosea 6:7).Hosea 6:6. This is not a declaration on the part of God that he was opposed to "sacrifices" or "offerings for sin;" for he had appointed and commanded many, and had therefore expressed his approbation of them. It is a Hebrew mode of speaking, and means, "I prefer mercy to sacrifice;" or, "I am more pleased with acts of benevolence and kindness than with a mere external compliance with the duties of religion." Mercy here means benevolence or kindness toward others. "Sacrifices" were offerings made to God on account of sin, or as an expression of thanksgiving. They were commonly bloody offerings, or animals slain; signifying that the sinner offering them deserved to die himself, and pointing to the great sacrifice or offering which Christ was to make for the sins of the world. "Sacrifices" were the principal part of the worship of the Jews, and hence came to signify "external worship in general." This is the meaning of the word here. The sense in which our Saviour applies it is this: "You Pharisees are exceedingly tenacious of the "external" duties of religion; but God has declared that he prefers benevolence or mercy to those external duties. It is proper, therefore, that I should associate with sinners for the purpose of doing them good."
I came not to call the righteous ... - No human beings are by nature righteous, Psalm 14:3; Romans 1:18-32; Romans 3:10-18. The Pharisees, however, "pretended" to be righteous. Christ might have meant by this answer that it was not the design of his coming to cal such persons to repentance, knowing that they would spurn his efforts, and that to a great extent they would be vain; or, more probably, he meant to affirm that his proper and only business was to call to repentance such people as he was now with. He came to seek and save such, and it was his "proper business," therefore, to associate with them.
Repentance - See the notes at Matthew 3:2.
I will have mercy, and not sacrifice—that is, the one rather than the other. "Sacrifice," the chief part of the ceremonial law, is here put for a religion of literal adherence to mere rules; while "mercy" expresses such compassion for the fallen as seeks to lift them up. The duty of keeping aloof from the polluted, in the sense of "having no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness," is obvious enough; but to understand this as prohibiting such intercourse with them as is necessary to their recovery, is to abuse it. This was what these pharisaical religionists did, and this is what our Lord here exposes.
for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance—The italicized words are of doubtful authority here, and more than doubtful authority in Mr 2:17; but in Lu 5:32 they are undisputed. We have here just the former statement stripped of its figure. "The righteous" are the whole; "sinners," the sick. When Christ "called" the latter, as He did Matthew, and probably some of those publicans and sinners whom he had invited to meet Him, it was to heal them of their spiritual maladies, or save their souls: "The righteous," like those miserable self-satisfied Pharisees, "He sent empty away."Go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, quoted from Hosea 6:6. Our Saviour’s reply to the Pharisees, to him that duly considers it, will appear very smart.
1. They were a generation that laid all religion upon rituals, sacrifice, and traditions.
2. That justified themselves, Luke 16:15, and thought they needed no repentance.
Saith our Saviour, I am the spiritual Physician. With him would they have the physician to converse, but with such as are sick? Those that are whole (as the Pharisees account themselves) think they have no need of my coming amongst them. By their peevishness at the acts of mercy which I do (and those of the highest mercy too, healing souls) they show that they do not understand what Hosea (a prophet acknowledged by themselves) long since taught them, that the Lord desired mercy before sacrifice; for that appeareth to be the sense of not sacrifice in that text, both by the next words, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings, and by the many precepts by which God declared that he did desire sacrifices.
For I am not come to call the righteous, that is, those who are swelled in an opinion of their own righteousness but (sensible) sinners to repentance: first to repentance, then to the receiving remission of sins through me, and eternal life. Hosea 6:6 "I will have mercy, and not sacrifice"; which, if rightly understood, was sufficient to silence all their cavils and objections: and which words are to be taken, not in an absolute and unlimited sense; for sacrifices even of slain beasts, which were offered up in the faith of Christ's sacrifice, and were attended with other acts of religion and piety, were acceptable to God, being his own institutions and appointments; but in a comparative sense, as the following clause in the prophet shows; "and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings"; and so the sense is given in the "Chaldee paraphrase", after this manner: "for in those that exercise mercy is my good will and pleasure", or "delight", "more than in sacrifice": and the meaning is, that God takes more delight and pleasure, either in showing mercy himself to poor miserable sinners; or in acts of mercy, compassion, and beneficence done by men, to fallen creatures in distress, whether for the good of their bodies, or more especially for the welfare of their souls, than he does even in sacrifices, and in any of the rituals of the ceremonial law, though of his own appointing: and therefore must be supposed to have a less regard to sacrifices, which were offered, neither in a right manner, nor from a right principle, nor to a right end; and still less to human traditions, and customs, which were put upon a level, and even preferred to his institutions; such as these the Pharisees were so zealous of. The force of our Lord's reasoning is, that since his conversation, with publicans and sinners, was an act of mercy and compassion to their souls, and designed for their spiritual good; it must be much more pleasing to God, than had he attended to the traditions of the elders, they charge him with the breach of: besides, what he was now doing was the end of his coming into this world, and which was answered hereby;
for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance. The phrase, "to repentance", is not in the Vulgate Latin, nor in Munster's Hebrew Gospel, nor in the Syriac, Ethiopic, and Persic versions; but is in the Arabic, and in the ancient Greek copies, and is very justly retained. The "repentance" here designed, is not a legal, but an evangelical one: which is attended with faith in Christ, with views, at least hopes of pardon through his blood, and springs from a discovery and sense of his love: it lies in a true sense of sin, and the exceeding sinfulness of it, by the light of the Spirit of God; in a godly sorrow for it, and hearty loathing of it; in real shame and blushing for it, ingenuous confession of it, and departing from it; all which is brought on, influenced, heightened, and increased, by displays of the love of God through Christ. The persons called to this are not the "righteous"; meaning either such who are really so, because these are already called to it, though, whilst in a state of imperfection, daily need the exercise of this grace; or rather such who are so in their own opinion, and in the sight of men only, not in the sight of God, which was the case of the Scribes and Pharisees, and very few of these were called and brought to repentance; but "sinners", even the worst, and chief of sinners, who, as they stand in need of this grace, and when thoroughly convinced, see they do; so Christ came into this world as prophet and minister of the word to "call" them to it: which call of his does not suppose that they had a power to repent of themselves; for this man has not, he is naturally blind, and do not see his sin; his heart is hard and obdurate, and till his eyes are opened, and his stony heart taken away by a superior power to his own, he will never repent; though he may have space, yet if he has not grace given him, he will remain impenitent. No means will bring him to it of themselves, neither the most severe judgments, nor the greatest kindnesses, nor the most powerful ministry; repentance is entirely a free grace gift: nor does the call of Christ imply the contrary; which may be considered either as external, as a preacher of the word, and as such was not always attended to, and effectual, but often slighted and rejected: or as internal, being by the power of his grace effectual; for he who called to repentance, as a minister of the word, as a prince and a saviour, was able to give it, and which none but a divine person is able to do. The Jews have a saying (b) of
"shepherds, collectors of taxes and "publicans", , "that their repentance is difficult".''
Now, since this was the end of his coming into the world, his conduct in conversing with publicans and sinners was in all respects highly to be justified.But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Matthew 9:13. After having justified His holding intercourse with publicans and sinners, Jesus with the δέ proceeds to tell the Pharisees what they would have to do in order to their receiving His invitation to be healed: “but go and learn what is meant by that saying of the Scripture (Hosea 6:6, LXX.), I will have mercy and not sacrifice.” You must understand that first of all, if you are to be of the number of those who are to be invited to enter the Messiah’s kingdom: “for I am not come to call righteous, but sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). Through that quotation from the Scripture (mentioned only by Matthew here and Matthew 12:7), it is intended to make the Pharisees understand how much they too were sinners. According to others, Jesus wishes to justify His conduct, inasmuch as the exhibition of love and mercy constitutes the Messiah’s highest duty (Ewald, Bleek). This, however, is less probable, owing to the πορευθέντες with which He dismisses them from His presence, the analogy of Matthew 12:7, and the very apt allusion in οὐ θυσίαν to the Pharisees with their legal pride.
πορευθ. μάθετε] corresponds to the Rabbinical form צא ולמד, which is used in sending one away, with a view to fuller reflection upon some matter or other, or with a view to being first of all instructed regarding it; see Schoettgen.
γάρ] assigns the reason for the πορευθέντες μάθετε, through which μανθάνειν they are first to be rendered capable of receiving the invitation to participate in the blessings of the kingdom. This invitation is uniformly expressed by the absolute καλεῖν.
The masculine ἔλεος is the classical form; the neuter, which rarely occurs in Greek authors (Isocr. 18, p. 378; Diod. iii. 18), is the prevailing form in the LXX., Apocrypha, and the New Testament, although the manuscripts show considerable fluctuation. In the present instance, the neuter, though possessing the authority of B C* D א (like Matthew 12:7), was naturally adopted from the LXX.
καὶ οὐ θυς.] The negative is absolute, in accordance with the idea aut … aut. God does not desire sacrifice instead of mercy, but mercy instead of sacrifice. The latter is an accessory (Calvin), in which everything depends on the right disposition, which is what God desires.Matthew 9:13. πορευθέντες μάθετε: a common expression among the Rabbis, but they never sent men to learn the particular lesson that God prefers mercy to sacrifice.—καὶ οὐ, does not imply that sacrifice is of no account.—ἔλεος (ἔλεον in T. R., a correction by the scribes), accusative neuter. Masculine nouns of 2nd declension are often neuter 3rd in N. T. and Sept—ἦλθον: Jesus speaks as one having a mission.—ἁμαρτωλούς: and it is to the sinful, in pursuance of the principle embodied in the prophetic oracle—a mission of mercy. The words ἰσχύοντες, Matthew 9:12, and δικαίους, Matthew 9:13, naturally suggest the Pharisees as the class meant. Weiss, always nervously afraid of allegorising in connection with parabolic utterances, protests, contending that it is indifferent to the sense of the parable whether there be any “whole” or righteous. But the point is blunted if there be no allusion. καλέσαι here has the sense of calling to a feast.
 Septuagint.13. I will have mercy] i. e. I desire mercy. I require mercy rather than sacrifice, Hosea 6:6. It is a protest by the prophet against the unloving, insincere formalist of his day. It is closely parallel to our Lord’s injunction, ch. Matthew 5:23-24. Sacrifice without mercy is no acceptable sacrifice. To love sinners is a better fulfilling of the law than to stand aloof from them. See note ch. Matthew 12:7, where our Lord again quotes these words.
The words “to repentance” are omitted in the leading MSS.Matthew 9:13. Πορέυθεντες, having gone) sc. into the synagogue, where you may refer to Hosea [sc. Matthew 6:6.] Our Lord often said to those who were not His own, πορεύου,” “depart,” see John 8:11. His style of quoting the Scriptures is full of suitableness and majesty, and different from that of the apostles; for He does it in such a manner as not Himself to rest upon, but to convince His hearers by their authority; and He employs it more towards His adversaries than towards the disciples who believed on Him.—μάθετε, learn ye) ye who think that ye are already consummate teachers.—ἔλεον θέλω, I will have mercy) A few read with the LXX. in Hosea 6:6, with whom the other words in this passage agree, ἔλεον θέλω. The LXX. more commonly use ΤῸ ἜΛΕΟς in the neuter, as in Hosea 6:4. Sometimes, however, Ὁ ἜΛΕΟς, like the ancient Greeks. Isaiah 60:10; Isaiah 63:7; Daniel 1:9; Daniel 9:20; Psalm 101:1; 1Ma 2:57; 1Ma 3:44; and especially in the minor prophets, Jonah 2:9; Micah 6:8 (which passage is also parallel with the evangelist), Ibid. Matthew 7:20; Zechariah 7:9; Hosea 12:6. Thus Ὁ ἜΛΕΟς occurs in the present passage, in Matthew 12:7; Matthew 23:23; Titus 3:5; Hebrews 4:16; but ΤΌ ἜΛΕΟς occurs frequently in St Luke, St Paul, St James, St Peter, St John, and St Jude; and in Micah 7:18, the LXX., have ΘΕΛΗΤῊς ἘΛΈΟΥς ἘΣΤῚΝ, He is a willer of mercy. We have here an axiom of interpretation, nay, the sum total of that part of theology which treats of cases of conscience. On mercy, cf. ch. Matthew 23:23. The word θυσίαν, sacrifice (victimam), is put synecdochically. It is an act of mercy to eat with sinners for their spiritual profit.—ἦλθον, I have come) sc. from heaven.—καλέσαι, to call) Such is the mission, such the authority of Christ.—ἁμαρτωλοὺς, sinners) The word is purposely and emphatically repeated by our Lord. Cf. Matthew 9:11.
 In the original “Alieniores,”—an expression which is used several times by Bengel in the course of this gospel, and which it is easier to understand than to translate.—(I. B.)
 So BC corrected later, D. This is the Hellenistic form, as τὸ πλοῦτος, τὸ ζῆλος found in LXX. and oldest MSS. of N. T. for ὁ πλοῦτος, ὁ ζῆλος. Rec. Text has ἔλεον, the classic form.—ED.
 A part for the whole of positive performances.—ED.
 So far ought you to be from despising repentance; for repentance is in fact the curing of the soul.—V. g.
Καὶ οὐ θυσίαν) This is one portion of the rigorous observance of those things, which are contained in the Law.—V. g.Verse 13. - The first half of the verse comes in Matthew only. But go ye and learn. A common rabbinic phrase based on the fact that the disputants would not always have the cumbrous rolls of Scripture actually with them. These Pharisees pro-reseed to be students of Scripture, but had not yet learned the principle taught in this passage. What that meaneth, I will have (I desire, Revised Version) mercy, and not sacrifice. Mercy (ἔλεος). In the original connexion of this quotation (Hosea 6:6) the words are without doubt (but cf. Dr. Taylor's 'Gospel in the Law,' p. 10) an expression of God's desire that his people should show mercy rather than only perform external sacrifices, and this meaning is probably intended by our Lord here also. The connexion will then be either
(1) "I wish you to show mercy rather than perform external actions, for only thus will you resemble me in my coming to call sinners;" or
(2) "I wish you to show this mercy, and therefore I practise it myself." The former seems the more natural. It is, however, possible that our Lord disregards the original context of the words, and uses them only as a summary of an important truth, that God prefers to show mercy rather than to insist on sacrifice. This would make excellent sense here, viz. "Learn the true principle by which God acts, free grace, for it is on this that I have acted in coming to call sinners." (So nearly Dr. Taylor, op. cit., p. 3.) The sentence is quoted again in Matthew 12:7, where the original thought of the words seems more certainly applicable. For I am not come; for I came not (Revised Version). Christ refers to his historic coming in the Incarnation rather than to his abiding presence (cf. also Matthew 5:17). To call the righteous, but sinners (καλέσαι δικαίους ἀλλ ἁμαρτωλούς). The English generic article in the first term spoils the anarthrous expression of the Greek by lessening the contrast between the two classes. Dr. Taylor suggests the rendering, "not saints, but sinners" (op. cit., p. 4). To repentance. Omitted by the Revised Version and Westcott and Herr. From the parallel passage in Luke.
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