1 Samuel 15:22: To Obey Is Better Than Sacrifice
1 Samuel 15:22 is not the only verse that teaches that to obey is better than sacrifice. It is the only verse to specifically say those words, but many other passages of Scripture teach the importance of obedience and the unimportance of sacrifice.
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Here's a list, which I will add to as I find more passages. Right now, these are just the ones that I can remember off the top of my head. They are in the order they appear in the Bible. They speak for themselves, so there will be no commentary here. If you want explanations, see my Sacrifices page. A much fuller article on the Atonement is on my blog
All Scripture below is from the World English Bible because it is a decent translation that is not copyrighted.
- Psalm 51:16-17: For you don’t delight in sacrifice, or else I would give it. You have no pleasure in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. O God, you will not despise a broken and contrite heart.
- Psalm 69:30-32: I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving. It will please Yahweh better than an ox, or a bull that has horns and hoofs. The humble have seen it, and are glad. You who seek after God, let your heart live.
- Isaiah 1:11-19: "What are the multitude of your sacrifices to me?" says Yahweh. "I have had enough of the burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed animals. I don’t delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of male goats. When you come to appear before me, who has required this at your hand, to trample my courts? Bring no more vain offerings. Incense is an abomination to me. New moons, Sabbaths, and convocations: I can’t stand evil assemblies. My soul hates your New Moons and your appointed feasts. They are a burden to me. I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you. Yes, when you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves. Make yourself clean. Put away the evil of your doings from before my eyes. Cease to do evil. Learn to do well. Seek justice. Relieve the oppressed. Defend the fatherless. Plead for the widow."
"Come now, and let’s reason together," says Yahweh: "Though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good of the land."
- Jeremiah 7:22-23: For I didn’t speak to your fathers or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices; but this thing I commanded them, saying, "Listen to my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. Walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you."
- Hosea 6:6: For I desire mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.
- Micah 6:6-8: How shall I come before Yahweh, and bow myself before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will Yahweh be pleased with thousands of rams? With tens of thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my disobedience? The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O man, what is good. What does Yahweh require of you, but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?
- Matthew 9:10-13: As he sat in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw it, they said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard it, he said to them, "Those who are healthy have no need for a physician, but those who are sick do. But you go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ for I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
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