But go ye and learn ... - To reprove them, and to vindicate his own conduct, he appealed to a passage of Scripture with which they ought to have been acquainted: "I will have mercy, and not sacrifice," 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, Psalms 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.
Other Barnes' Notes entries containing Matthew 9:13:
1 Corinthians 13:5
1 Peter 3:19
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