Why did Noah find Favor with God? (Gen 6:8)


Gen 6:8 says, "But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord."

Which came 1st, the chicken or the egg?

Did God's favor come 1st, followed by good works? Or did some goodness exist, followed by God's favor? If we think it is the former we live in freedom. If the latter, we live with some constant inner uncertainty and nervousness, always wondering where we may by falling short or not measuring up.

In the OT, the Hebrew word translated "favor" (NIV, ESV) is "chen," which is defined as "favor" or "grace." Favor/grace always suggests something that is always undeserved and unmerited -- or it would not be grace. So, why did Noah find grace/favor with God?

For over 2 decades I have instinctively thought and taught that the reason was because of Gen 6:9: "Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God." Therefore, because of Noah's blamelessness and faithfulness, Noah found favor with God.

But such a reason fails to consider the emphatic declaration/nature of the preceding 3 verses in Gen 6:5-7, which surely also fully applies to Noah. This is also in line with what the NT says (Rom 3:10-12,23; 6:23). Thus, even Noah would be included in these severe and harsh indictments and assessment of the entire human race.

Gen 6:8 does not say that "Noah earned or won favor in the eyes of the Lord," but that "Noah found favor..." To find is to discover or come upon it. It is the difference between finding $10 and earning $10. To find $10 is for it to come to you freely, without regard to work or behavior. Thus to find God's favor is not the same as to earn it.

J.A. Motyer, renowned OT scholar writes in Look to the Rock (An OT background to our understanding of Christ), 1996,

"The formula 'x found favor in the eyes of y' is found about 40 times in the OT... in its strict intention it deals with a situation where "x" can register no claim on "y" but where "y" contrary to merit or deserving, against all odds, acts with grace. Taking Gen 6:8 then, with its preceding context, we meet Noah...as a typical man among men. Like the rest, because he too is part of humankind, he is wicked outwardly and inwardly, a grief to God and under divine sentence. But in distinction from the rest of humankind a grace of God, as unexplained as it is unmerited, has come to him. He has not "found" this grace by merit or effort; rather it has found him."

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