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Sections of the Apostolic Writings
The Gospels and Acts • The “Pauline” Letters • General Letters • End Times

Rav Sha'ul’s Letter to

Author: Rav Sha'ul
Date of Writing: ca. 60 CE
Place of Writing: A Prison in Rome
Theme: Love Exemplified

Introductory Comments

As Sha'ul indicated in Col 4:9, the letter to the Colossians was written during his first imprisonment[a] in Rome and was to be delivered carried to them by Tychicus and Onesimus. Another letter, of great significance to Onesimus, is also being sent. Before coming to Rome and being discipled by Sha'ul, Onesimus had been the slave of a Messianic Believer named Philemon. Onesimus, whose name means “useful,” had run away from Philemon and had evidently taken some money or property belonging to his master. Sha'ul now writes to Philemon on behalf of Onesimus and asks that Philemon accept him back as a brother in the Messiah. The letter is an insightful study in personal relationships among believers and contrasts the freedoms that come when one is under bondage to Messiah.

I. Introduction and Greeting (vv 1-3)

1From: Paul, a prisoner for the cause of Meshiach“Anointed One” Yeshua, and our brother Timotheos,

To: Philemon, our beloved fellow-worker,[1] 2sister Apphia, our fellow soldier Archippus, and the assembly that meets in your home:

3Grace and shalom[GN] to you from God our Father and the Lord Yeshua HaMashiachthe Messiah..

II. The Character of Philemon (vv 4-7)

4I always thank my God when I mention you in my prayers, 5because I hear about your trust in the Lord Yeshua and your love for all His holy people.[GN] 6I pray that the fellowship you are committed to may become effective as you fully acknowledge every good thing that is ours in Messiah. 7I take great joy and encouragement in your love because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the holy people[7].

III. Intercession for Onesimus (vv 8-21)

8Therefore, although in Messiah I am bold enough to order you to do that which is appropriate, 9yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you as Sha'ul, the the old man, but also a prisoner of Yeshua HaMashiach. 10I appeal to you for my child Onesimus“useful”, whose father I have become while I was in chains 11Once he was useless[11] to you, but now he has become useful to both you and me. 12I am sending him back to you as if he were my own heart. 13I would have liked to keep him with me, so that that on your behalf he might have served me here in my chains for the Good News. 14But I didn’t want to do anything without your consent, so that your goodness would not out of compulsion, but of your own free will. 15So maybe he was separated from you so that you could have him back forever, 16no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother. He is especially beloved to me, but even more so to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

17So if you consider me a partner, receive him as you would receive me. 18But if he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, put that to my account.

 19I, Sha'ul, write this with my own hand:[19] I will repay it (not to mention that you owe me yourself). 20Yes, brother, let me have joy from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Messiah. 21Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.

IV. Conclusion, Personal Greeting, and Benediction (vv 22-25)

22In the meantime, prepare a guest room for me, for I hope that through your prayers I will be restored to you.

23Epaphras, my fellow prisoner for te sake of Messiah Yeshua, greets you, 24as do Markos, Aristarchus, Demas, and Loukas, my fellow-workers.

25The grace of our Lord Yeshua HaMashiach be with your spirit. Amen.


 a. Rav Sha'ul, the Letter-Writer: Epilogue. [BACK]

  1. Fellow-worker: Greek συνεργῷ (synergō), A fellow worker, associate, helper. From a presumed compound of sun and the base of ergon; a co-laborer, i.e. coadjutor. [BACK]

 7. I have avoided translating ἅγιος (hagios: sacred, holy) as “saints” to stay away from the Roman Catholic concept of the word as referring to humans elevated to the level of demi-gods. [BACK]

11. This is an obvious play on his name, “Useful.” [BACK]

19. The bulk of the letter was probably written by a scribe, but Sha'ul picked up the pen and wrote this pledge in his own handwriting. [BACK]


Originally posted on Shabbat, 25 July 2020

Page last updated on Monday, 02 October 2023 12:39 PM
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