Paul, Philemon, and Onesimus (Baugh)

Romans to Philemon: Volume Three (Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary Book 3) by [Zondervan,] While imprisoned in Rome (or possibly Ephesus) the apostle Paul wrote a letter to Philemon to address the situation about Onesimus, Philemon’s slave who had most likely run away.  It seems as if Onesimus was not a Christian when he first met Paul (Philemon 1:10).  The question is, how and why did Onesimus end up with Paul after he had run away?  We don’t know the answers to these questions with certainty, but I appreciate Steve Baugh’s insights on this topic:

“Onesimus did not just run away from Philemon, but he ran away to Paul in order to secure Paul’s aid in restoring him to his master’s good graces for some reason.  When a slave fell into his master’s extreme disfavor, it could go very badly for him.  In such cases, the slave had nothing but dismal prospects.  In some cases they ran to one of their master’s friends to beg his intercession.  This scenario well explains how Onesimus could have met up with Paul: He sought him out.  It also explains why Paul writes to secure Philemon’s reconciliation with Onesimus and why Paul, not the Roman authorities, was sending Onesimus back to Philemon if he were a runaway.”

Steve Baugh, “Philemon,” in volume 3 of Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015