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Religion
Scriptural Concepts

Favored-Status
חן

Hebrew and Greek Words

The ancient world had a dilemna about how an honorable ruler could do normally dishonerable actions necessary for governing (taking taxes, executing criminals, initiating wars, and so forth).

The answer that gradually developed was the concept of favored-status. A ruler was considered favored by and/or related to the divine and thus beyond normal concerns of honor and shame.

The Biblical Hebrew word for favored-status is chen. This word is usually mistranslated as "favor" although the concept is larger.

The Biblical Greek word for the favored-status is doxa. This word is is usually translated as "glory" because this is what "glory" normally meant in first-century Roman culture.

(Biblical Hebrew has a very different concept of "glory", kavod referring to weightiness. Thus the Apostolic Writings in places awkwardly have a scribe uses doxa to refer to kavod instead of favored-status. This happens primarily when Luke's gospel is not citing Mark or Matthew (Luke 2:14, 2:32, perhaps 9:31-32; also Acts 7:55). John's gospel uses doxa to mean kavod in chapters 5-12, but in verses 1:14, 2:11, and in the upper room discourse uses doxa correctly to mean favored-status. Paul's earliest letters (First and Second Corinthians) and imprisonment letters (Ephesians/Philippians/Colossians) also use doxa to mean kavod, showing something about the scribes to which he had access. The author of Hebrews always uses doxa for kavod.)

Meaning in Ancient Israel

In ancient Israel the culture valued innocence/guilt as much as honor/shame. Honor was primarily tied to wealth, who were understood as favored by God. So the culture's concept of favored-status focused on the responsibilities of the wealthy (such as expectations of generosity) and not in particular on rulers.

To the ancient Israelites, favored-status was "found in people's sight". It was a matter of status and increased responsibility given by God which should be acknowledged by men.

Favored-status is not merely respect. In Genesis 47:29, Jacob asks if Joseph sees Israel with favored-status, even though Jacob is his father.

A person does not need to be well liked to have favored-status. Examples of people acknowledged to have favored-status while not loved include Joseph in Genesis 47:25 (by the Egyptian farmers becoming slaves) and all the ancient Israelites in Exodus 3:21 (by the Egyptians whose land is plauged and valuables are taken away).

Nor is favored-status simply treating someone favorably. The phrase to describe treating someone favorable is "good in the sight of...". Exodus 11:3 has an exaggerated comparison of favored-status and being treated favorable, for all the Israelites had favored-status but Moses was "great in the sight of..." (a unique exaggeration of "good in the sight of...").

Favored-status often accompanies or follows forgiveness. Someone who has been socially shamed can escape the shame by acquiring favored-status. Examples of people escaping shame through favored-status include Abraham in Genesis 18:3 (before the three men he did not see early enough), Lot in Genesis 19:19 (to the angels), Lavan in Genesis 30:27 (to Jacob), Shechem in Genesis 34:11 (to Jacob and his sons), Jacob in Genesis 33:15 (to Esau), Ruth in Ruth 2:10-13 (to Boaz), and Hannah in First Samuel 1:18 (to Eli).

Similarly, favored-status can also accompany failing a responsibility but then being pardoned because of a good excuse. This happens in Genesis 50:4 when Joseph asks for a sabbatical from his duties to go bury his father, in Numbers 32:5 when the leaders of Reuven and Gad ask Moses for first pick of the land, and in Judges 6:17 when Gideon is full of doubt and asks for a miraculous sign.

In Zechariah 12:10 favored-status is linked to the ability to petition God.

Meaning in the First Century

Roman culture in the first century had a more fully developed concept of favored-status. The emperor who ruled was believed to be related to the divine, and responsible for distributing good things to those he ruled. The emperor must thus be honored whether or not he behaves honorably. He is completely above normal issues of honor and shame. Similarly, lesser rules inherited a less dramatic favored-status based upon whom they were related to.

The Apostolic Writings show many of these first-century Roman ideas.

Yeshua talks twice during his Sermon on the Mount (in Matthew 5:9 and 5:45) about favored-status relating to distributing good things from God. The word usually translated "peacemakers" in verse 5:9 is better translated "peace-distributors" and was usually used to refer to emperors.

Blessed are the peace-distributors, for they shall be called children of God...

Then you will be children of your Father who is in heaven, for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.

Favored-status is about ruling. In Matthew 4:8 Satan offers Yeshua favored-status over nations. Matthew 19:28 relates favored-status to sitting on the throne. Mark 10:37 has James and John wanting to sit at Yeshua's right and left. Favored-status and dominion are matched in First Peter 4:11 and 5:11. Government representatives have favored-status in Second Peter 2:10 and Jude 1:8. Kings and nations have favored-status in Revelation 21:24, 26. In Romans 6:4 favored-status is about power.

Favored-status is inherited. Matthew 16:27 says Yeshua will return in the favored-status of his Father (also Matthew 24:30, 25:31; Mark 8:38). In Romans 8:17-18, 21 favored-status is related to being part of the family of the king, or the family of God. Yeshua is "glorified" in us, and we in him (Second Thessalonians 10-12).

Having favored-status puts someone beyond honor and shame. To fight against favored-status would bring shame. (See Luke 13:17, Ephesians 5:27, First Corinthians 15:43, and First Peter 4:16.)

Suffering is part of having favored-status. Yeshua needed to suffer first to enter into this favored-status (Luke 24:26; First Timothy 3:16; First Peter 1:11, 1:21, 4:13). We also need to suffer to share in his favored-status (Romans 8:17).

In Romans 8:1 and 8:16-18, Paul makes explicit that as children of God we are beyond issues of guilt and shame if we are willing to suffer and use favored-status.

There is, then, now no condemnation to those in Messiah Yeshua who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit...

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ--if indeed we suffer with him, that we may also be given favored-status with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the favored-status about to be revealed toward us.

Yeshua fulfills the people of Israel's favored-status. Israel has favored-status (Romans 9:4). Yeshua is the "light to appear to the Gentiles and the favored-status of your people Israel" (Luke 2:32).

Meaning for Yeshua's followers in Modern Times

We should recognize that we have favored-status because we are now children of God. This puts us beyond concerns of honor and shame, and gives us responsibilities to help God distribute his blessings and other good things from his Kingdom.

In the future we will rule with favored-status. Many verses refer to this: see Romans 8:18, 8:30, 9:23, First Corinthians 6:1-11, Second Thessalonians 2:14, Second Timothy 2:10, First Peter 5:1-4, Second Peter 1:3, Revelation 1:6, 21:9-11, and also First Corinthians 3:18-23 with Paul's older vocabulary.