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Lydia, Seller of Purple

Lisa loves to write about the Bible and share it with everyone.


Paul, with Timothy, Silas, and Luke came “to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days” (Acts 16:12). Paul, Timothy, Silas, and Luke went out Philippi's city gate on the Sabbath to and spoke to the women that were gathered at the riverside. We can say that there were probably some Jews living there since they were scattered abroad. According to Barnes “that the Jews were accustomed to provide water, or to build their synagogues and oratories near water, for the convenience of the numerous washings before and during their religious services. And when they spake unto the women it was probably before the regular service of the place commenced”.

Lydia was a woman who was from the city of Thyatira. According to the Barnes NT Commentary, “Thyatira was a city of Lydia, in Asia Minor, now called Ak-hisar. The art of dyeing was particularly cultivated”. Lydia, by profession, was a seller of purple. At this time, purple was worn mainly by royalty or the rich because it was a valuable color that came from shellfish. So that would most likely mean that purple would be profitable to the seller and that Lydia was rich.

We read in the Bible that Lydia worshiped God which would make her a religious woman. She was by the river when Paul, Timothy, Silas, and Luke were speaking to the women there. She listened to Paul because the Lord opened her heart. Only God can open our hearts fully. Here is what Barnes has to say: “...that we may be acquainted with the Scriptures. It is not that we may be made wise above what is written but that we may submit ourselves wholly to the Word of God. Only God can open the mind so as fully to comprehend the Scriptures” (Barnes Commentary).

Lydia and her household were then baptized after listening to Paul. According to Matthew Poole's Commentary, her household means “when Lydia had right to baptism, by reason of her faith in Jesus Christ, all her family, whom she could undertake to bring up in the knowledge of Christ, were admitted to that ordinance also; as all the servants, and such others as were born in his house or bought with his money, were circumcised with Abraham”. We don't know if she was married or had children since it is not mentioned. She asked Paul and those with him t come to her home and stay with her if they deemed her worthy and faithful to the Lord. “She constrained us...” This sounds like Paul didn't want to burden her, so he might have said no at first, but somehow persuaded them to stay with her.

Lydia is mentioned again later in the same chapter. After they were released from prison, they went to Lydia's house, a recent convert and friend. After they saw and comforted the brethren Paul and Silas left Philippi and went to Thessalonica leaving Timothy and Luke behind.

Lydia is only mentioned in a few verses but in those few, we learn many important things about her. We know that she was from Thyatria but was living in Philippi, and she was a seller of purple. We can assume that she was wealthy because of her profession. The most important thing is that she worshiped God and was immediately baptized with her household. She didn't wait to be baptized.

Today we need to be baptized because we believe and not because of our parents or family. We can only get ourselves to Heaven. We also learn that she was hospitable because she invited them to her house to stay. This also implies that she wanted to learn more about God's word. It must have been wonderful to have Paul, Timothy, Silas, and Luke stay at your home. What a way to learn more about being a Christian and God than having these great men teach you.

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