Rabbi Jacob Milgrom, Dean of Near Eastern Studies at UC Berkeley, concluded that Hosea 6:6 was the most important verse in “the Prophets” in the Old Testament. (See: “Jacob Milgrom,” Wikipedia.)
I was surprised, because I had no clue about Hosea 6:6. But he may have been right.
Hosea 6:6: “For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.”
To appreciate this verse, we must to turn to the Hebrew.
“Mercy” – charity, agape, the pure love of Christ
The word for “mercy” comes from the Hebrew “chesed.” (See: Orthodox Jewish Bible)
The Hebrew “chesed” is the equivalent of the Greek “agape“.
The King James Version sometimes translates chesed as “loving kindness.” Chesed is much more than that. It is agape, charity, the pure love of Christ.
Other translations come closer to the mark. The New Living Translation translates chesed as “unfailing love.” The English Standard Version uses “steadfast love.” The Christian Standard Bible uses “faithful love.” The International Standard Version uses “gracious love.” Combining grace and love is a good description of agape, charity, the pure love of Christ and chesed.
Conclusion: having agape, charity, the pure love of Christ in our hearts is more important than the outward ordinances of sacrifice and burnt offerings.
“Knowledge of God”
The term “knowledge of God” comes from “da’at Elohim.”
“The idea of ‘knowing’ in ancient Hebrew … is personal and intimate. In Hebrew thought, one can only “know” someone if they have a close, personal and intimate relationship with them. For example, in Genesis 4:1 it says that Adam “knew [da’at] Eve his wife” implying an intimate sexual relationship.”
Conclusion: “knowing God” is also more important than the outward ordinances of sacrifice and burnt offerings. “Knowing” requires a close personal relationship with God.
This is confirmed by the Prophet Joseph Smith.
“It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God’ (Teachings, 345). In other words, one of the foundation stones of the restored gospel is a knowledge of what kind of being God actually is.”
“But not only do we need to understand what kind of being God is, we must come to know God.”
“If any man does not know God, . . . he will realize that he has not eternal life; for there can be eternal life on no other principle.” (Teachings, 344-345 ).
Jesus, in His great intercessory prayer, confirmed that life eternal is to ‘know . . . the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom [the Father] hast sent’” (John 17:3).
Therefore, knowing God and having the pure love of Christ are two of the most important gospel principles.
This is why Hosea 6:6 is one of the most important verses in the Old Testament.
(Thanks to Paul and Shery Curren for “birddogging” this scripture for me.)