Finding favor means gaining approval, acceptance, or special benefits or blessings. There is also a close association among favor, grace, and mercy, which are sometimes used to translate the same Hebrew and Greek words (such as hen [ej] and charis [cavri"]). The favor that human beings receive from God depends on his good pleasure and is often extended in response to prayer or righteous living. Those whose walk is blameless, such as Noah or Moses ( Gen 6:8 ; Exod 33:12-13 ), receive favor and honor from the Lord ( Psalm 84:11 ). In Moses' blessing on the twelve tribes he speaks of Joseph's prosperity and fruitfulness as the one who enjoyed God's favor ( Deut 33:16 ). Gabriel told Mary ( Luke 1:30 ) that she had "found favor with God" and would bear the Christ-child. When Christ was born the angelic host announced to the shepherds that God would send "peace to men on whom his favor rests" ( Luke 2:14 ). At age twelve Jesus enjoyed the favor of God and men as he "grew in wisdom and stature" ( Luke 2:52 ), a description similar to the one about the boy Samuel ( 1 Sam 2:26 ).
Often the bestowal of God's favor comes in answer to prayer as people cry out for mercy. Moses pleaded that God would spare Israel in spite of their sinful worship of the golden calf ( Exod 32:11 ). Moses prayed that he might know God and learn his ways so that his favor might continue ( Exod 33:12-13 ). Sinful kings such as Manasseh humbled themselves and sought the Lord in their distress, and he graciously showed them favor ( 2 Kings 13:4 ; 2 Chron 33:12 ). Sometimes, however, the Lord withheld his compassion and brought judgment on his people (cf. Isa 27:11 ).
Still, when the full force of his judgment struck Israel, God did not abandon the nation but restored them from exile. He showed compassion to this people and saved them from their distress ( Psalm 106:4 ; Isa 60:10 ). Isaiah calls this deliverance the "time" or "the year of the Lord's favor" (49:8; 61:2), which is linked with the day of salvation in the New Testament ( Luke 4:19 ; 2 Cor 6:2 ). Those who believe the gospel receive the ultimate gift of God's favor: eternal life through Christ.
Human approval can be gained through faithful and effective service. Joseph enjoyed the favor of Potiphar as he wisely administered Potiphar's estate, though ultimately this recognition came through God's blessing ( Genesis 39:4 Genesis 39:21 ). Ruth found favor in the eyes of the wealthy Boaz because of her kindness to her mother-in-law, Naomi ( Ruth 2:2 Ruth 2:10 Ruth 2:13 ). Although David was badly out of favor with Saul, even the Philistines realized how quickly David could have regained that favor through his military skill ( 1 Sam 29:4 ). A king's favor brought many benefits to the recipient ( Prov 16:15 ).
Because of sin God requires sacrifices to make atonement and restore his favor. In the Old Testament animal sacrifices were presented at the sanctuary with the hope that God would accept them and forgive the sins of the offerer ( Lev 1:3-4 ). Such acceptance was not automatic, however, for the offerer had to have an attitude of repentance and humility (cf. Gen 4:4-5 ; Micah 6:7-8 ). When Christ died on Calvary, the perfect sacrifice was presented, making it possible for all who believe to enjoy God's favor ( 2 Cor 6:2 ).
Herbert M. Wolf
See also Grace
Bibliography. G. Schrenk, TDNT, 2:743-51; W. Zimmerli and H. Conzelmann, TDNT, 9:376-81, 392-401.
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of
Baker Book House Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan USA.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.
For usage information, please read the Baker Book House Copyright Statement.
[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
Bibliography InformationElwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Favor'". "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology".