Acts 16:14
And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.
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(14) Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira.—The city so named, now known as Ak-hissar, was in the Roman province of Asia, but came within the boundaries of the older kingdom of Lydia, and it is probable that, like so many slaves and women of the libertinæ class, she took her name from her country. Afra, Græca, Syra, are familiar examples of like names. “Lydia” occurs, it will be remembered, once and again, in Horace (Od. i. 14; iii. 9). Thyatira, one of the cities in the valley of the Lycus, was, like many other towns of Asia Minor, famous for its dyeing works, especially for purple, or crimson, which rivalled the fame of Tyre or Miletus (Strabo, xiii. 4, § 14). Inscriptions found on the spot bear witness to the existence of a guild, or corporation, of purple-sellers, with which Lydia doubtless was connected. In Revelation 1:11; Revelation 2:18, it appears as one of the seven churches to which special epistles were to be sent from their divine Head. It had been founded as a colony, in the modern sense of the term, from Macedonia, as the sequel of the conquest of the Persian monarchy by Alexander the Great, and this may in part explain Lydia’s presence at Philippi. The fact that she, and not her husband, is named as the purple-seller, is at least presumptive evidence that she was carrying on the business by herself.

Which worshipped God.—She was, i.e., a proselyte (see Note on Acts 13:10), and, as the sequel shows, one of the better type, drawn to Judaism, not by superstitious fear, or weak credulity, but by the higher ethical and spiritual teaching which it presented.

Heard.—For “heard” read was listening.

Whose heart the Lord opened.—The scene is one which might well call for the master touches of a great painter. The river flowing calmly by, the preacher sitting and talking familiarly, but earnestly, to the groups of women, one, at least, among them listening with looks and tears that told of deep emotions, and the consciousness of a new life.

That she attended.—Better, to give heed to, as in Acts 8:6, and elsewhere.

16:6-15 The removals of ministers, and the dispensing the means of grace by them, are in particular under Divine conduct and direction. We must follow Providence: and whatever we seek to do, if that suffer us not, we ought to submit and believe to be for the best. People greatly need help for their souls, it is their duty to look out for it, and to invite those among them who can help them. And God's calls must be complied with readily. A solemn assembly the worshippers of God must have, if possible, upon the sabbath day. If we have not synagogues, we must be thankful for more private places, and resort to them; not forsaking the assembling together, as our opportunities are. Among the hearers of Paul was a woman, named Lydia. She had an honest calling, which the historian notices to her praise. Yet though she had a calling to mind, she found time to improve advantages for her soul. It will not excuse us from religious duties, to say, We have a trade to mind; for have not we also a God to serve, and souls to look after? Religion does not call us from our business in the world, but directs us in it. Pride, prejudice, and sin shut out the truths of God, till his grace makes way for them into the understanding and affections; and the Lord alone can open the heart to receive and believe his word. We must believe in Jesus Christ; there is no coming to God as a Father, but by the Son as Mediator.A seller of purple - Purple was a most valuable color, obtained usually from shellfish. It was chiefly worn by princes and by the rich, and the traffic in it might be very profitable. Compare the Isaiah 1:18 note; Luke 16:19 note.

The city of Thyatira - This was a city of Lydia, in Asia Minor, now called Akhisar. The art of dyeing was early cultivated in the neighborhood of Thyatira, as we learn from Homer (Iliad, iv. 141), and as is confirmed by inscriptions found in that city - a circumstance which may be referred to as confirming the veracity of the statements of Luke even in his casual allusions. Several of these inscriptions have been published. See the Life and Epistles of Paul, i.295.

Which worshipped God - A religious woman, a proselyte. See the note at Acts 13:16.

Whose heart the Lord opened - See the note at Luke 24:45.

14, 15. Lydia—a common name among the Greeks and Romans.

a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira—on the confines of Lydia and Phrygia. The Lydians, particularly the inhabitants of Thyatira, were celebrated for their dyeing, in which they inherited the reputation of the Tyrians. Inscriptions to this effect, yet remaining, confirm the accuracy of our historian. This woman appears to have been in good circumstances, having an establishment at Philippi large enough to accommodate the missionary party (Ac 16:15), and receiving her goods from her native town.

which worshipped God—that is, was a proselyte to the Jewish faith, and as such present at this meeting.

whose heart the Lord opened—that is, the Lord Jesus (see Ac 16:15; and compare Lu 24:45; Mt 11:27).

that she attended to the things … spoken by Paul—"showing that the inclination of the heart towards the truth originates not in the will of man. The first disposition to turn to the Gospel is a work of grace" [Olshausen]. Observe here the place assigned to "giving attention" or "heed" to the truth—that species of attention which consists in having the whole mind engrossed with it, and in apprehending and drinking it in, in its vital and saving character.

Lydia; so called from the country of that name, she being born at

Thyatira, a city therein, and now lived with her family at Philippi.

Worshipped God; being a proselyte, and one of them who had left the heathenish idolatry, and owned the one only and true God; but as yet unacquainted with the gospel of his Son our Saviour.

Heart, in Scripture sense, signifies both the understanding and the will: thus, With the heart man believeth unto righteousness, Romans 10:10. Her understanding was enlightened, her heart changed; she now loved what she before hated, and hated what before she loved.

The Lord opened; this was the Lord’s work; according unto what our Saviour himself had said, John 6:44, No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him. And yet we may in a sense open our hearts, by using such means as God hath promised to succeed for that purpose, Revelation 3:20; and especially when, in a sense of our inability and necessity, we implore the free grace of God, and engage him to work in us according unto all his good pleasure. Otherwise creating a clean heart within us, as it is called, Psalm 51:10, is beyond the power of nature.

She attended: hearing is an instructive sense, and faith cometh by it, Romans 10:17, but it must then be accompanied with attention.

And a certain woman, named Lydia,.... Whether this woman was a Jewess or a Gentile, is not certain, her name will not determine; she might be called so from the country of Lydia, which was in Asia minor, and where was Thyatira, her native place; Horace makes frequent mention of one of this name (g) and it might be a Jewish name; we read of R. Simeon ben Lydia (h); and as these seem to be Jewish women that met at this oratory, she might be one:

a seller of purple; either of purple silks, much wore in the eastern countries; or of the purple dye, which in,

"Then Judas returned to spoil the tents, where they got much gold, and silver, and blue silk, and purple of the sea, and great riches.'' (1 Maccabees 4:23)

is called "purple of the sea", or "sea purple"; it being the blood or juice of a turbinated shell fish, which the Jews call "Chalson": this they speak of as a shellfish; hence those words (i),

"go and learn of the Chalson, for all the while it grows, its shell grows with it:''

and that purple was dyed with the blood of it, appears from the following instances; "the best fruits in the land", Genesis 43:11 are interpreted (k), the things that are the most famous in the world, as the Chalson, &c. with whose blood, as the gloss on the passage says, they dye purple: and the purple dyed with this was very valuable, and fetched a good price; the tribe of Zebulun is represented (l), as complaining to God, that he had given to their brethren fields and vineyards, to them mountains and hills, to their brethren lands, and to them seas and rivers; to which it is replied, all will stand in need of thee, because of Chalson; as it is said, Deuteronomy 33:19 "They shall suck of the abundance of the seas"; the gloss upon it, interpreting the word Chalson, is, it comes out of the sea to the mountains, and with its blood they dye purple, which is sold at a very dear price. The text in Deuteronomy 33:19 is thus paraphrased by Jonathan the Targumist;

"at the shore of the sea they dwell (i.e. they of the tribe of Zebulun), and they delight themselves with (the fish) Tuny, and take Chalson, and with its blood dye purple the threads of their garments.''

And so Maimonides says (m), that they use this in dying the fringes on the borders of their garments; after they have scoured the wool, and the like, that it may take the dye, he says,

"they take of the blood of Chalson, which is a fish whose colour is like the colour of purple, and its blood is black like ink, and it is found in the salt sea,''

particularly about Tyre; so the husbandmen in Jeremiah 52:16 are interpreted (n), they that catch Chalson from the ladder of Tyre to Chippah, or the shore; the gloss explains it, those that squeeze and press the Chalson, to fetch out its blood: and with all this agree the modern accounts given of purple, as follow;

"purple was much esteemed among the ancients, especially the Tyrian purple; which underwent more dyes than the rest, and which was almost peculiar to emperors and kings, yet this purple did not exceed that now in use.--The ancient purple was tinged, or given with the blood or juice of a precious turbinated testaceous sea fish, called by the Greeks and by the Latins "purpura".--In the seas of the Spanish West Indies, about Nicoya, is found a shell fish, which perfectly resembles the ancient "purpura", and in all probability is the very same--these are gathered very plentifully in the spring, and by rubbing one against another, yield a kind of saliva, or thick glair, resembling soft wax; but the purple dye is in the throat of the fish, and the finest part in a little white vein--the chief riches of Nicoya consist in this fish; cloth of Segovia dyed with it, is sold for twenty crowns the ell.--In the Philosoph. Transact., we have an account of a purple fish discovered in 1686, by Mr. W. Cole, on the coasts of Somersetshire, South Wales, &c, where it is found in great abundance.--The fish is a kind of "buccinum", a name given by the ancients to all fishes, whose shell bears any resemblance to a hunting horn; and it appears from Pliny, that part of the ancient purple was taken from this kind of shell fish. The Caribbee Islands have likewise their "purple" fish; it is called "burgan", being of the size of the end of the finger, and resembling our periwinkles; its shell is of a brownish azure, its flesh white, its intestines of a very bright red, the colour whereof appears through the body; and it is this that dyes that froth, which it casts when taken, and which is at first of a violet hue, bordering on blue; to oblige them to yield the greater quantity of froth, they lay them on a plate, and shake and beat them against one another, upon which the plate is immediately covered with the froth, which is received on a linen cloth, and becomes "purple", in proportion as it dries (o).''

It may be further observed, that the fringes which the Jews wore upon their garments, had on them a ribband of blue or purple, Numbers 15:38, for the word there used, is by the Septuagint rendered "purple", in Numbers 4:7 and sometimes "hyacinth"; and the whole fringe was by the Jews called "purple" :hence it is said (p),

"does not everyone that puts on the "purple" (i.e. the fringes on his garments) in Jerusalem, make men to wonder? and a little after, the former saints, or religious men, when they had wove in it (the garment) three parts, they put on it "the purple".''

And there were persons who traded in these things, and were called , "sellers of purple" (q), as here; that is, for the Tzitzith, or fringes for the borders of the garments, on which the ribband of blue or purple was put, as the gloss explains it: the Jews were very curious about the colour, and the dying of it; that it should be a colour that would hold and not change; and that the ribband be dyed on purpose for that use. Maimonides gives rules for the dying of it (r), and they were no less careful of whom they bought it; for they say, that "the purple" was not to be bought, but of an approved person, or one that was authorized for that purpose (s); and a scruple is raised by one, whether he had done right or no, in buying it of the family of a doctor deceased (t): now since Lydia might be a Jewess, or at least, as appears by what follows, was a proselytess of the Jewish religion, this might be her business to sell the purple for their fringes, and it may be the fringes themselves; and if this was her employment, she was thoroughly a religious person in their way, since we find, that , "sellers of purple", were free from reading


{8} And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.

(8) The Lord opens the heart to hear the word which is preached.

Acts 16:14. Καί τις κ.τ.λ.] Also a woman was listening, etc. Λυδία was a common female name (Hor. Od. i. 8, iii. 9, vi. 20), and therefore it remains doubtful whether she received her name “a solo natali” (Grotius, de Wette, and others).

πορφυρόπωλις] ἡ τὰ πορφυρᾶ (fabrics and clothes dyed purple) πωλοῦσα (Hesychius, Phot. Bibl. 201. 41). The dyeing of purple was actively carried on (Val. Fl. iv. 368; Claud. Rapt. P. i. 274; Plin. H. N. vii. 57; Ael. H. A. 4. 46; Max. Tyr. xl. 2), especially in Lydia, to which Thyatira belonged (Ptol. v. 2; Plin. v. 31), and an inscription found at Thyatira particularly mentions the guild of dyers of that place. See Spon. Miscell. erud. ant. p. 113.

σεβομ. τ. θεόν] A female proselyte. See on Acts 13:16; Acts 13:43.

ἧς ὁ Κύρ. διήνοιξε τ. καρδ.] Luke recognises the attentive interest, which Lydia with her heart unclosed directed to the word, as produced by the influence of the exalted Christ (ὁ Κύριος) working for the promotion of His kingdom, who opened (διήνοιξε) the heart of Lydia, i.e. wrought in her self-consciousness, as the centre and sphere of action of her inner vital energy, the corresponding readiness, in order that she might attend to what was preached (προσέχ. τοῖς λαλουμ.). The fidem habere (Grotius, Kuinoel, Heinrichs) followed, but still was not the προσέχειν itself. Comp. on Acts 8:6. Moreover, Chrysostom correctly remarks: τὸ μὲν οὖν ἀνοίξαι τοῦ Θεοῦ· τὸ δὲ προσέχειν αὐτῆς· ὥστε καὶ θεῖον καὶ ἀνθρώπινον ἦν. Comp. 2Ma 1:4; Luke 24:45; Ephesians 1:18. She experienced the motus inevitabiles of grace, to which she offered no resistance, but with willing submission rendered the moral self-conscious compliance by which she arrived at faith.[53]

[53] Comp. Luthardt, vom freien Willen, p. 427 f.

Acts 16:14. Λυδία: she may have taken her name “a solo natali,” as Grotius and others have thought, like many of the libertinae, Afra, Græca, Syra; but the name was a popular one for women, cf. its frequent use in Horace. Renan takes it as meaning “the Lydian,” and compares Κορινθία in inscriptions, St. Paul, p. 116, cf. also Zahn, Einleitung, i., 375, but on the other hand, Nösgen, in loco.—πορφυρόπωλις: a seller of purple at Philippi of the purple dyed garments from Thyatira, which formed the finest class of her wares. It is evident that she must have possessed a considerable amount of capital to carry on this trade, and we may note that she was thus in a position to help Paul in the expenses connected with his trial, without endorsing Renan’s view that she was his wife, St. Paul, p. 148; see below on Acts 24:26. The expression σεβ. τὸν Θεόν shows that she was “a proselyte of the gate”; she could easily have gained her knowledge of the Jewish religion as she was πόλεως Θυατείρων where a Jewish colony had been planted, and there is reason to believe that the Jews were specially devoted to the dyeing industry for which Thyatira and the Lydian land in general were noted. Thus the inscriptions make it certain that there was a guild of dyers οἱ βαφεῖς at Thyatira, cf. Spohn, Miscell. erud. ant., p. 113; Blass in loco; Ramsay, Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia, i., p. 145; Renan, St. Paul, p. 146, note; Zahn, Einleitung, i., p. 376. According to Strabo, Thyatira was a Mysian town, but Ptolemy, Acts 16:2, describes it as belonging to Lydia.—ἤκουεν: imperfect, denoting continuous hearing; the baptism would naturally follow after a period of hearing and instruction, “quod evenit aor[293] διήνοιξεν declaratur” Blass, see also Bengel.—διήνοιξε τὴν καρδίαν, cf. Acts 17:3, Ephesians 1:18; in LXX, cf. Hosea 2:15 (17), 2Ma 1:4. The verb is frequent in St. Luke, Luke 24:31-32; Luke 24:45, and in Acts 2:23 quotation, Acts 7:56; Acts 17:3; only once elsewhere in N.T., Mark 7:34. “To open is the part of God, to pay attention that of the woman,” Chrysostom: ὥστε καὶ θεῖον καὶ ἀνθρώπινον ἦν.—τοῖς λ. ὑπὸ τοῦ Π.: C. and H. see an indication of St. Luke’s own modesty: “we spake” in Acts 16:13, but now only Paul is mentioned.

[293] aorist tense.

14. named Lydia] This may have been her proper name, or it may only have been that by which she passed among the colonists of Philippi, being from the Lydian town of Thyatira. From inscriptions which have been found on the site of the ancient town, it is clear that dyeing was one of the staple trades of Thyatira, and it was from thence that Lydia brought over the purple which she sold in Philippi.

Thyatira] On the river Lycus in Lydia. To be distinguished from the river of the same name in Phrygia on which were situated Laodicæa, Hierapolis and Colossæ, in all which places the congregations afterwards became objects of St Paul’s great affection and interest. Colossians 4:13.

which worshipped God] i.e. had become a proselyte of the Jewish faith.

whose heart the Lord opened] St Luke recognizes that without this the word would have made no entrance. He probably makes special mention of this here because he had previously stated that the Lord had called them to preach at Philippi. Having pointed out their work, He helps them to perform it.

that she attended] She gave such heed as to be convinced of their truth. The same verb occurs Acts 8:6, and from the context both there and here we see that it implies “gave credence unto.”

Acts 16:14. Λυδία, Lydia) The name of this woman, or else her surname, which was better known than her name. The city, Thyatira, is in Lydia, as most of the cities, which also occur in the Apocalypse.—πορφυρόπωλις, a seller of purple) The women of Lydia were celebrated for the art of purple-dyeing: thence also arose their merchandise.—πόλεως, of the city) Either the native city simply, or also the commerce of the city (its staple manufacture), which Lydia was engaged in, is indicated.—σεβομένη τὸν Θεὸν, who worshipped GOD) She had imbibed some knowledge from the prophets.—διήνοιξε, opened) Διανοίγεσδαι, to be opened, is properly said of the eyes: and the heart (understanding) has eyes. Ephesians 1:18, “The eyes of your understanding (καρδίας, heart) being enlightened.” The heart is in itself closed; but it is the prerogative of GOD to open it. So 2Ma 1:4, διανοίξαι (ὁ Θεὸς) τὴν καρδίαν ὑμῶν, may God open your heart.

Verse 14. - One that for which, A.V.; to give heed for that she attended, A.V.; by for of, A.V. A certain woman, etc. Whether her personal name was Lydia, or whether she was commonly so called on account of her native country and her trade, must remain uncertain. Thyatira was in Lydia. Lydian women, from the time of Homer downwards, were famous for their purple dyes; and it appears from an inscription found in Thyatira, that there was there a guild of dyers, called οἱ βαφεῖς (Lewin, 2:214). One that worshipped God (σεβομένη τὸν Θεὸν); i.e. a proselyte. So in Acts 13:43 we find οἱ σεβόμενοι προσήλυτοι the devout or religious proselytes. And so αἱ σεβόμεναι γυναῖκες, the devout women. And so, in Acts 18:7, Justus is described as σεβόμενος τὸν Θεὸν one who worshipped God (see too Acts 17:4, 17). In Acts 10:1 Cornelius is spoken of as εὐσεβὴς καὶ φοβούμενος τὸν Θεὸν. It has been suggested that possibly Euodias and Syntyche (Philippians 4:2) were of the same class, and converted at the same time as Lydia. There is certainly a coincidence between the mention of the women in ver. 13 and the prominence given to the Philippian women in Philippians 4:2, 3. It is well observed by Chrysostom, on the latter part of this verse, "The opening of the heart was God's work, the attending was hers: so that it was both God's doing and man's" (camp. Philippians 2:12, 13). To open (διανοίγειν) is applied as here to the heart (2 Macc. 1:4); to the eyes (Luke 24:31); to the ears (Mark 7:34, 35); to the understanding (Luke 24:45); to the Scriptures (Luke 24:32); "Corclausum per se. Dei est id aporire "(Bengel). Acts 16:14Lydia

An adjective: the Lydian; but as Lydia was a common name among the Greeks and Romans, it does not follow that she was named from her native country.

A seller of purple

On purple, see note on Luke 16:19.


The district of Lydia, and the city of Thyatira in particular, were famous for purple dyes. So Homer:

"As when some Carian or Maeonian dame

Tinges with purple the white ivory,

To form a trapping for the cheeks of steeds."

Iliad, iv., 141.

An inscription found in the ruins of Thyatira relates to the guild of dyers.

Heard (ἤκουεν)

Imperfect, was hearing while we preached.

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