This epistle was written by the Apostle Paul, when a prisoner at
Rome, as appears from its inscription and subscription; and seems to
have been written at the same time, in the year 60, and sent by the
same hand, as the epistle to the Colossians; seeing the same persons
were with the apostle at the writing of both, and send their
Christian salutations in the one, as in the other; compare
\\#Phm 1:23,24\\ with \\#Col 4:10,12,14\\ and Archippus, the minister
in Colosse, is made mention of in both, \\#Phm 1:2 Col 4:17\\ and it is
very probable that Philemon, to whom it was written, was a Colossian,
since Onesimus, his servant, on whose account, and by whom it was sent,
is said to be one of the Colossians, \\#Col 4:9\\. Philemon is said to
be one of the seventy disciples, and afterwards Bishop of Gaza;
\\see Gill on "Lu 10:1"\\. The occasion of the epistle was this; Philemon's
servant, Onesimus, having either embezzled his master's goods, or
robbed him, ran away from him, and fled to Rome, where the apostle was
a prisoner in chains in his own hired house, under the custody of a
soldier, and where he received all that came, and preached the Gospel
to them, \\#Ac 28:30\\ and among those that went to hear him, this
fugitive servant was one, and was converted under his ministry; and who
not only received the grace of God, but had such gifts bestowed on him
as qualified him to be a preacher of the word. Now the design of this
epistle is to reconcile Philemon to his servant, and to entreat him to
receive him again, not only as a servant, but as a brother in Christ;
and the most proper and prudent methods and arguments are used to
engage him to it. The epistle, though it is a familiar one, and short,
is very instructive; it shows great humility in the apostle, and that
he did not think it below him to be concerned in doing such an office
as to reconcile a master to his servant, and which is worthy of
imitation; as also it teaches the right that masters have over their
servants, which is not lost by their becoming Christians, and even
ministers of the Gospel; and that recompense should be made unto them
for injuries done by them: it likewise displays the riches of the grace
of God, in the conversion of such a vile creature: and the wonderful
providence of God in overruling that which was sinful in itself,
running away from his master, to the greatest good, even the conversion
of him; and is an instance of surprising grace: and from hence may be
learned, that there is salvation in Christ for the chief of sinners;
and that the conversion of them is not to be despaired of. The
authority of this epistle was not questioned by the ancient writers,
and stands always in their catalogues of the canon of the Scripture;
and Marcion the heretic, who either rejected, or changed, or mutilated
the rest of the epistles, could not lay his hands on this, because of
the brevity of it, as Tertullian {a} and Jerom {b} observe.

{a} Advers. Marcion. l. 5. c. 21.
{b} Proaem. in Philem.


This epistle has an inscription, salutation, and preface, the same with
others, which are in \\#Phm 1:1-4\\, the principal view of it is to
persuade Philemon to receive his servant Onesimus; the arguments used
are taken from the general character he had for love to the saints,
and people of God, and therefore it was hoped he would act up to it
in this instance, \\#Phm 1:5-7\\, from the consideration of the
person who made the suit to him, who could have used authority, but
chose rather to entreat him in love; and also of his age, and the
condition in which he was, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, \\#Phm 1:8,9\\
from the spiritual relation Onesimus was in to the apostle, who had
begotten him in his bonds, \\#Phm 1:10\\ from the present usefulness
of him, both to Philemon and the apostle, who before was useless,
\\#Phm 1:11\\, from the strong affection the apostle had for him,
being as his own bowels, \\#Phm 1:12\\ from his unwillingness to do
anything without his consent, though he could have detained him upon
the foot of equity and justice, to have served him in his stead,
\\#Phm 1:13,14\\, from the overruling providence of God, which had so
ordered it, that he should depart from him for a time, that he might
be received for ever, \\#Phm 1:15\\ from the character under which he
could now be received, not as a servant, but as a beloved brother,
\\#Phm 1:16\\ from the partnership and association in which the
apostle and Philemon were, \\#Phm 1:17\\ from the assurance he gave
him of repaying him whatever his servant owed him, and making good
whatever he had injured him in, \\#Phm 1:18,19\\ and from
that pleasure, delight, and refreshment he should have, should he
receive him, \\#Phm 1:20\\. And, upon the whole, the apostle expresses
his confidence that he would grant his request, obey his commands,
and even do more than he had mentioned to him, \\#Phm 1:21\\. And
then gives him some hope of his being delivered from prison, through
the prayers of Philemon, and others, and of seeing him shortly; and
therefore desires he would prepare a lodging for him, \\#Phm 1:22\\
and closes with the salutations of several friends to him, mentioned
by name, with their characters, \\#Phm 1:23,24\\ and with his own
common salutation, \\#Phm 1:25\\.