On two occasions, Matthew places the words of Hos 6:6a, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice,” on the lips of Jesus (Matt 9:9–13; 12:1–8). This essay proposes a new reading of the Hos 6:6a quotations in those Matthean contexts. Rather than reading ἔλεος (“mercy”)— in the sense of either human compassion or covenant faithfulness—as what the Pharisees lack (and Jesus has), ἔλεος may denote the covenant faithfulness that the tax collectors and sinners (9:9–13) and disciples (12:1–8) have toward Jesus. Θυσία (“sacrifice”), then, would represent the sacrificial system, which was the other means, besides covenant faithfulness to Jesus, to receive forgiveness and divine reconciliation.

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