Biblical People

Biblical People: Onesiphorus

Onesiphorus is another obscure character in the New Testament. We only hear of him twice, and both times it’s in Paul’s second letter to his protégé Timothy.

In the opening chapter, Paul writes a prayer of blessing for Onesiphorus—asking God to show mercy to his household. There’s a reason Paul makes this request. It’s because Onesiphorus has often encouraged Paul and wasn’t embarrassed to meet with him in prison.

Paul goes on to say that when he was in Rome, likely in jail, Onesiphorus made a diligent search until he found him. That’s dedication and determination.

Then, after another prayer request that God will grant that Onesiphorus find mercy, Paul also affirms the many ways Onesiphorus helped him in Ephesus.

Later, as Paul wraps up his letter to Timothy, Paul tells him to greet Priscilla, Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. This is interesting. Both times we read of Onesiphorus, it’s in conjunction with his household. This would include his family and possibly servants. 

Why does Paul mention Onesiphorus’s household? Perhaps he leads a large, noteworthy clan. Or maybe his family is giving him grief, so Paul knows Onesiphorus needs encouragement. These are conjectures. In truth we don’t know.

What we do know is how Onesiphorus encourages Paul, visits him in jail, and diligently searches for him. As a result, Onesiphorus earns Paul’s appreciation and his prayers, for both him and his household.

When we pray for others, do we also pray for their household? Should we?

[Discover more about Onesiphorus in 2 Timothy 1:16–18 and 2 Timothy 4:19.]

Read more about other biblical characters in The Friends and Foes of Jesus, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 1,000-page website to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and many books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

By Peter DeHaan

Peter writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and make a faith that matters. Learn more at