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Acts 16:14

Acts 16:14

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 F7 and it might be a Jewish name; we read of R. Simeon ben Lydia F8; 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 (Nwzlx) , "Chalson": this they speak of as a shellfish; hence those words F9,

``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 F11, the things that are the most famous in the world, as the Chalson 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 F12, 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 F13, 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 F14, 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 (porfura) , 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 F15.''

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 (tlkt) , "purple" :hence it is said F16,

``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 (tlkt) , "the purple".''

And there were persons who traded in these things, and were called (tlkt yrkwm) , "sellers of purple" F17, 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 F18, 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 F20: 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 (tlkt yrkwm) , "sellers of purple", were free from reading

``hear O Israel" ( Deuteronomy 6:4 ) and "from prayer", and from the phylacteries for this reason, because he that is employed in the commandment (in any work for it) was free from the commandment F21;''

and yet she attended at the place and time of prayer:

of the city of Thyatira;
which was in Lydia, or as others say in Mysia, which was in Asia Minor; Pliny F23 seems to place it in Ionia, by the river Lycus, and says it was formerly called Pelopia and Euhippa, and it was also called Semiramis; it had its name of Thyatira from Seleucus Nicanor, who being at war with Lysimachus near this place, and hearing he had a daughter born, called it Thygateira; though others say it was so called, because that when the Mysians were about to build a city, inquiring of the gods where they should build it, were told, that they should build it where a hart was struck, and appeared running; and (dia to yuein) , because of the sacrificing of the hart, they called it Thyateira. The Turks now call it "Ak hissar", the white camp. This was Lydia's native place, from which she was now at a great distance, being either wholly removed hither, or was here upon business; for Thyatira was in Asia, and Philippi, where she now was, was in Europe:

which worshipped God;
the true God, the God of Israel, and not the gods of the Gentiles, among whom she was; which shows, that she was either a Jewish woman, who had knowledge of the one true and living God, or at least a proselytess of the Jewish religion:

heard us;
not alone, but with other women; and at first only externally, and not so as to understand and receive what she heard, until the efficacious grace of God was exerted upon her, signified in the following clause:

whose heart the Lord opened;
which was before shut and barred, with the bars of ignorance, hardness, and unbelief. The heart of a sinner before conversion, is like a house shut up, and wholly in darkness; whatever degree of natural or moral light is in it, there is none in spiritual things; it is empty of the grace of God, of the fear of him, and love to him; it is without proper inhabitants, without God, Christ, and the Spirit; and is the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, who delight in dark and desolate places; it is bolted and barred with unbelief, and walled up, and even petrified and hardened with sin, and is guarded and garrisoned by Satan, and its goods are kept in peace by him: and this had been the case of Lydia; but now the Lord opened her understanding, and put light into it, which was before darkness itself; as to spiritual things; by which she saw her wretched, sinful, and miserable state by nature, the insufficiency of all ways and means, and works, to justify and save her, and the necessity, suitableness, and fulness of grace and salvation by Christ; which was done by the same divine power, that at first created light in darkness: moreover, the Lord wrought upon her affections, and engaged them to divine and spiritual things; creating love in her soul to Christ, to his people, truths and ordinances; which was done by his almighty hand, taking away the stony heart, and giving an heart of flesh: he also removed the bar of unbelief, entered in himself, dispossessed Satan, and worked faith in her, to look to him, lay hold on him, and receive him, as her Saviour and Redeemer; making her willing in the day of his power, to be saved by him, and to serve him: it is a petition the Jews frequently make F24, in their prayers to God, (yabl xtptd) , "that thou wouldst open my heart", in thy law; or as sometimes, open our hearts in the doctrine of thy law: not Lydia herself, nor the Apostle Paul, but the Lord opened her heart; Jehovah the Father, who commanded light out of darkness; Jehovah the Son, who has the key of the house of David; Jehovah the Spirit, who convinces of sin, righteousness, and judgment:

that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul;
concerning the person and offices of Christ, concerning his truths and ordinances, concerning free justification by his righteousness, pardon by his blood, and everlasting salvation by him; these things she hearkened unto in another manner than she had done; before she heard, but did not attend to what she heard; but faith coming by hearing, now she hears with the hearing of faith, and understands what she hears, and cordially receives and embraces it, and put into practice what she heard, submitting to the ordinance of Christ, as follows.


FOOTNOTES:

F7 Carm. l. 1. ode 8, 13, 25. & l. 3. ode 9.
F8 Juchasin, fol. 105. 1.
F9 Shirhashirim Rabba, fol. 18. 3.
F11 Bereshit Rabbi, sect. 91. fol. 79. 4. & Mattanot Cehunah in ib.
F12 T. Bab. Megilla, fol. 6. 1.
F13 Hilchot Tzitzith, c. 2. sect. 2.
F14 T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 26. 1. & 75. 1.
F15 Chambers's Cyclopoedia in the word "Purple".
F16 T. Bab. Menachot, fol. 40. 1, 2.
F17 T. Bab. Pesachim, fol. 50. 2.
F18 Maimon. Hilchot Tzitzith. c. 2. sect. 1, 2, 3.
F19 Ib. sect. 4.
F20 T. Bab. Avoda Zara, fol. 39. 1.
F21 T. Bab. Succa, fol. 26. 1.
F23 Nat. Hist. l. 5. c. 29.
F24 Zohar in Exod. fol. 83. 1. Raziel, fol. 45. 1. & 42. 1, 2. Shaare Zion, fol. 53. 2. & 65. 1. Seder Tephillot. Ed. Basil. fol 74. 2.
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