Abraham pleads for mercy for Sodom and Gomorrah in a strange dialogue with Yahvah that is full of numbers. His Nephew Lot barely escapes. The numbers point to another Nephew intervention story.

Genesis 18:16-33

16The men rose up from there and looked toward Sodom and Abraham went with them to see them off. Genesis 18:16FE 17The Master said, Will I hide from my servant Abraham the thing which I am going to do? 18Abraham will be a great and mighty people and all the peoples of the land will be blessed in him, 19because I know him. He will command his children and the children of his house after him to preserve the ways of the Master, to do righteousness and judgment, because the Master will fulfill on Abraham the thing that he has said on him. Genesis 18:17-1920The Master said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah has come before me and their sins are very grievous 21I will now go down and see whether they have done altogether according to their cry which has come before me. If not I will know. Genesis 18:20-2122The men turned from there and went toward Sodom and Abraham remained standing before the Master. 23Abraham drew near and said, Will you in your anger destroy the righteous with the sinners? 24Suppose there are 50 righteous within the city. Will you in your anger destroy it and not forgive the place because of the 50 righteous that are in it? 25Far be it from you to do such a thing as this, to kill the innocent with the guilty, far be it from you judge of the whole land. Such a judgment should never be carried out. Genesis 18:22-2526The Master said, If I find in Sodom 50 righteous within the city I will forgive the whole place because of them. Genesis 18:2627Abraham answered and said, I have ventured to speak before master yet I am but dust and ashes. 28Suppose there will lack 5 of the 50 righteous. Will you destroy the whole city for the lack of 5 men? Genesis 18:27-28He said, I will not destroy it if I find there 45. Genesis 18:2829He spoke to him and said, Suppose 40 will be found there? Genesis 18:29aHe said, I will not destroy it if I find there 40. Genesis 18:29b30He said, Do not let master be displeased and I will speak. Suppose 30 will be found there? Genesis 18:30aHe said, I will not destroy it if I find there 30. Genesis 18:30b31He said, I have ventured to speak before master. Suppose 20 will be found there? Genesis 18:31aHe said, I will not destroy it because of 20. Genesis 18:31b32He said, Do not let master be displeased and I will speak only once more. Suppose 10 will be found there? Genesis 18:32aHe said, I will not destroy it because of 10. Genesis 18:32b33The Master went when he had finished speaking with Abraham and Abraham returned to his place. Genesis 18:33 (Genesis 18:16-33 BRB)


50+50+50+5+50+5+45+40+40+30+30+20+20+10+10 = 455 = Philemon


The story in the very short letter of Philemon is that Paul is sending a young man named Onesimus back to Philemon, the addressee of the letter, after converting Onesimus in prison. The letter begs the question of what Philemon's and Onesimus' relationship is. Because the letter refers to Onesimus as a servant who owes Philemon it's generally understood that Onesimus is a servant of Philemon who someone ends up in jail where Paul is understood to have introduced him to Jesus.

This conventional understanding is mostly right, but one difference comes from a careful read of Philemon.

15Perhaps this was the reason why he left you awhile, that you can now have him forever, 16from now on not as a servant but more than a servant, a beloved brother to me, and much more to you both in the flesh and in our master. (Philemon 1:15-16 BRB)

It's clear from the letter that Paul is asking Philemon to cancel the debt Onesimus owes and thus his subjugation as a servant. This is why Paul tells Philemon to receive Onesimus not as a servant, but as a brother. All is well so far, but the last phrase in the quote changes the game, "both in the flesh and in master." Paul is not talking about the relationship between Philemon and Onesimus purely in spiritual terms. He says they are brothers in master (meaning Jesus) and in the flesh (meaning biologically).

That Philemon and Onesimus are brothers appears to be as far as one can get based solely on the letter. The question is why would the story of Abraham rescuing his Nephew Lot point to the book of Philemon if the key players are provably brothers and there doesn't appear to be any Nephews in the book?

To see the Nephew connection you have to know about the story in Acts where Paul and his Nephew interact at the prison.

12When it was morning certain of the Jews banded together and bound themselves under oath that they would neither eat nor drink until they had killed Paul. 13Those who had sworn to this conspiracy were more than 40 persons. 14They went to the priests and elders and said, We have bound ourselves under an oath not to taste anything until we have killed Paul. 15Now you and the leaders of the council ask the chiliarch to bring him to you as though you desired to have a thorough investigation of his acts and we are ready to kill him before he will arrive here. Acts 23:12-1516The son of the sister of Paul heard this plot and went into the castle and told Paul. 17Paul sent for and called 1 of the centurions and said, Take this young man to the chiliarch for he has something to tell him. Acts 23:16-1718The centurion took the young man and brought him to the chiliarch and said, Paul the prisoner called me and begged me to bring this young man to you, for he has something to tell you. Acts 23:1819The chiliarch took the young man by his hand and drew him aside and asked him, What do you have to tell me? Acts 23:1920The young man said to him, The Jews have decided to ask you to bring Paul down tomorrow to their council as though they desired to learn something more from him. 21You must not listen to them for more than 40 of them who have bound themselves with an oath neither to eat nor to drink until they have killed him are lying in wait for him and they are ready and awaiting your reply. Acts 23:20-2122The chiliarch dismissed the young man and commanded him, Let no man know that you have informed me of these things. Acts 23:22 (Acts 23:12-22 BRB)

Take a wild guess at who Paul's Nephew might be. Can you name any names? How about Onesimus. Paul's Nephew at the prison, who rescued him from the hungry Jews, is likely Onesimus, the same person he converted while in prison. I'm sure that Onesimus saw enough to wonder what his Uncle Paul was up to. A great opportunity for Paul to share Jesus with him.

This connection is not based solely on a guess. I've yet to write about this, but the narrative of Acts, particularly Paul's travel itinerary, follows the books of the Bible in order much like the passages of Isaiah match stories in each book of the Bible. Normally this means Paul visits a named place and the book that carries the same name sits in that slot. When Paul visits somewhere that does not have a book by that name a book to an individual sits there instead. Stories later in Acts pick off the remaining books of the New Testament even though there's not much travel involved. With that short description of the system behind Acts, come back to the jail episode in Acts 23. This episode aligns with the book of Philemon. That means go look in Philemon for some kind of correlation or use the story in Acts as backstory for Philemon. The most likely correlation is that the Nephew in the jail story is the same young man Paul converted in jail, which would be Onesimus. That would make both Onesimus and Philemon Paul's Nephews. And that means Paul was in contact with family who were believers during his prolific ministry. Curious in and of itself.

The story in Genesis is a Nephew rescuing story, so of the two brothers Onesimus is the one rescued (though Paul tells Philemon that he owes him his life, so there may be more backstory still). In essence Lot is rescued from the flames of Sodom and Onesimus from the flames of damnation (I don't normally like doing metaphoric stuff, but this one was too tempting). The irony in this connection is also thick. Paul saves Onesimus, but Onesimus saves Paul.