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Hosea 6:1-6

"Come, let us return to the LORD,
it is he who has rent, but he will heal us;
he has struck us, but he will bind our wounds.
He will revive us after two days;
on the third day he will raise us up,
to live in his presence.

Let us know, let us strive to know the LORD;
as certain as the dawn is his coming,
and his judgment shines forth like the light of day!
He will come to us like the rain,
like spring rain that waters the earth."

What can I do with you, Ephraim?
What can I do with you, Judah?
Your piety is like a morning cloud,
like the dew that early passes away.

For this reason I smote them through the prophets,
I slew them by the words of my mouth;
For it is love that I desire, not sacrifice,
and knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
Hosea 6:1-6

Commentary on Hosea 6:1-6:

6:1-7. The call to seek the Lord at the end of the previous oracle (5:15) is responded to in 6:1-3. We hear the people speaking, led by their representatives (the prophet, or the priests). Having suffered (vv. 1-2), they are ready to repent and return to the Lord (v. 3). However, through the prophet the Lord tells them that their love should be steadfast (vv. 4 and 6 speak of these) but it is like dew or a morning cloud: it does not survive the heat of the day. The rather puzzling reference to "Adam" in v. 7 may mean the first man, but it could also be a city that stood at the entrance to the promised land where the waters of the Jordan were stopped to let the people cross (Josh. 13:16); the meaning of the passage does not change much, whichever "Adam" is meant; the point is that transgression of the Covenant has a long history that extends back almost to the beginning; their faithfulness is as short-lived as the morning dew.

As against that, the Lord tells them where true worship lies -  in steadfast love and "knowledge of God" (v. 6). The first words of this verse have had a considerable impact on Christian tradition, because they get to the heart of what religion is all about, and because our Lord quotes them more than once (cf. Mt 9:13; 12: 7) to underscore his teaching that God judges not to condemn but to save: "For their own good, God demanded of the Israelites not sacrifices and holocausts, but faith, obedience and righteousness. He revealed his will through the words of the prophet Hosea: I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings (Hos 6:6). The Lord gives further advice, saying: and if you had known what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless (Mt 12:7); and thus bear witness on behalf of the prophets, who preached the truth, against all those who threw their ignorance in the faces of God's servants" (St. Irenaeus, "Adversus haerseses", 4, 17, 4).

In v. 2, the words "after two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up" is a way of saying that the event described will happen in a short period of time. Some Christian writers beginning with Tertullian read the verse as referring to Christ's burial and resurrection; but the New Testament never quotes the verse as prophecy. However, one cannot completely rule out Hosea 6:2 having a connection with the New Testament wording "on the third day he arose according to the scriptures" (cf. 1 Cor 15:4) and with what Jesus said when he appeared in the cenacle (Lk 24:46); cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 627.


"The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Commentaries by members of the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and by Scepter Publishers in the United States.

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