Lydia and The Color Purple in the Bible

Are you familiar with the woman in the Bible who sold the color purple? If you are, and if you happen to be a woman engaged in business, then you share something in common with Lydia. Her story resonates with the essence of a godly businesswoman, playing a significant role as an early and vital member of the church, as recorded in the book of Acts. In her strength rooted in faith, Lydia stood out as the initial convert to Christianity in Philippi and throughout Macedonia. 

Lydia in the Bible Reference

While Lydia has only a short story in the Bible, she makes a huge, long-lasting impact on her family, the spread of the gospel, and its message worldwide. Let’s read directly from the passages where Lydia is found and see what we can extrapolate. 

Would you like to read Lydia's story? Download this free and gorgeous printable on verses about Lydia in the Bible!

Acts 16:9-15 KJV

9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.

10 And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.

11 Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis;

12 And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days. 

13 And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.

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.

15 And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.

The Story of Lydia in the Bible

Here’s what we know about Lydia in the Bible. She sells the color purple and is living during the time period of Christ and Paul has converted to Christianity. He begins his journey to convert souls starting with Europe, in the city of Thyatira. Lydia is not a native to this area and is most likely originally from Asia. 

Paul had a vision, which turned into a mission – starting in Macedonia – and Lydia was the first fruit of that call (Acts 16:9-14)! Lydia was transformed for the Lord right at the beginning of her Christian life, which is truly a sign of a born-again person.

Let’s set the stage. The doors had closed for Paul in Asia Minor, but God revealed a different plan. Paul had a dream where a Macedonian man stood and pleaded with Paul to come over to Macedonia and help them. During this time, Silas and Timothy were part of Paul’s team, and Luke joined them as well as he recorded this secondary journey for Paul. 

Who is Lydia in the Bible? 

Lydia, a seller of purple, was one of the few Jews or proselytes to Judaism in a Gentile community as there was no synagogue in the city. In addition, she was one of the few famous women in the Bible who owned a business or had a prestigious job like Deborah.

Once Lydia gets saved, we find out that she influences her entire household to trust Christ in Act. 16:15. This is a wonderful reminder that YOU have an influence on your family too if they are not saved. Your love and joy for Christ should exude throughout your daily life once you get saved, just like Lydia. 

What Role Did Lydia Play in the Bible?

In addition, Lydia was a great hostess – she had Paul and Silas as frequent guests in their home. The Bible says “she constrained” them, so, in other words, she was a persuasive woman! She obviously had a servant’s spirit and an innate desire to serve the Lord. Did you know that the church at Philippi started in Lydia’s home? 

Think about that next time you read the book of Philippians. We know this because when Paul and Silas were released from jail, they came first to Lydia’s home to comfort their brethren. 

 By the way, Philippi was named after Phillip II, father of Alexander the Great.  Philippi was well known as a prosperous, thriving community at the crossroads of two trade routes. It was called a ‘colony’, meaning it was part of the Roman government. 

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Why Did Lydia Sell Purple Cloth?

As mentioned, Lydia sold purple, but what does it mean that Lydia was a seller of purple? It’s not referring to clothes or jewelry as we would think. Instead, the scriptures talk about the expensive purple dye that was made by the Phoenicians and used by royalty and the wealthy. Have you ever heard of the saying “to be born into a wealthy lifestyle” is called “born in the purple”? 

If you remember in Luke 16:19, the rich man of Jesus’ parable was “clothed in purple”. The dye was made from the murex sea snail by a well-guarded process according to the book of Maccabees – which calls it “purple of the sea”. Supposedly, it took 10-12,000 of the creatures to produce one gram of dye. Wow, that’s a lot of sea creatures!

Lydia and the Color Purple in the Bible

The Bible often symbolizes the color purple with authority, wealth, luxury, and, at times, mockery. Its significance varies depending on the context in which it appears in the biblical narrative.

The color purple in Lydia’s story carries several symbolic meanings:

  1. Wealth and Prosperity: The fact that Lydia is described as a “seller of purple” indicates that she was involved in the trade of purple textiles or garments. In Biblical times, purple dye was derived from rare and expensive sources, making purple garments a symbol of wealth and luxury. Lydia’s association with purple suggests she was a woman of means and prominence.
  2. Royalty and Honor: Purple was often associated with royalty and honor. Looking at Lydia’s life, the connection to purple could symbolize her elevated status and influence in her community. Her prosperous trade might have garnered her respect and admiration among her peers.
  3. Spiritual Openness: The Bible suggests that the Lord opened Lydia’s heart, indicating that she was receptive to spiritual matters. This openness to God’s message aligns with the symbolic theme of transformation often attributed to the color purple. Lydia’s journey from a successful merchant to a believer in Christ reflects a profound change and growth.
  4. Hospitality and Generosity: Lydia’s invitation to Paul and his companions to stay in her house after her baptism indicates her heart for hospitality and generosity. Purple’s association with luxury ties into this theme, as she was able to provide a place of comfort and care for the missionaries.

In other words, in Lydia’s story, the color purple serves as a symbol of her social status, her journey of faith, and her character traits of prosperity, openness, and hospitality. The richness of the color aligns with the depth and significance of her encounter with Paul and her subsequent commitment to Christianity.

Did Lydia in the Bible Have a Husband?

After she was saved, she influenced her entire household to trust Christ (Ac. 16:15). We don’t know who was part of her household, but she most likely had servants and financial means since she lived in an affluent town. There are no records revealing whether she had a husband; she may have been a widow at this point in her life.

What Does Lydia Mean?

If you’re wondering what Lydia means, the name Lydia means “from Lydia” in Greek. Lydia was a region on the west coast of Asia Minor, supposedly named for legendary king Lydos. The meaning of the name Lydia in Hebrew means a standing pool. 

Why is Lydia Important in the Bible

Lydia’s faith is apparent in her actions. She and her household take the first step of obedience and get baptized (Acts 16:15) by Paul. Yet, she goes even further and becomes a hub for the first church in Phillipi. What an amazing woman! While we don’t know if she is married and could have been widowed, members of her house were saved as well because of her influence in their lives.

Lessons from Lydia in the bible

There are so many lessons we can gain from Lydia’s short passages in the Bible. Here are the takeaways from Lydia’s strong faith in the Lord:

  • She has large clout and huge respect from the people in her surrounding environment. 
  • Right away she obeys and gets baptized.
  • Lydia has a servant’s heart and uses her happy hospitality to host a larger group of men.
  • She takes a huge risk keeping them in her house even with Paul & Silas in jail.  
  • Many prominent saints in the early churches were women (Lydia, Priscilla, Phebe). 
  • Many of the first Christians were women (Ac. 17:4, 12), such as Lydia the first convert of Asia (Ac. 16:14).
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Characteristics of Lydia in the Bible

How can we be more like Lydia? Here are some characteristics we can gather from Lydia’s story in the Bible and it’s not about her efforts in purple:

  • Be hospitable to the church body. In other words, keep your house clean, available for guests, and well stocked with good food for the body of Christ.
  • Have a servant’s heart and serve your fellow Christians when the opportunity arises! 
  • Use what the Lord has blessed you with whether it’s your time, talents, or money! 

Lydia was such an important figure in the New Testament church. Can you imagine the impact she had by starting the first church in Asia? Women are critical to the cause of Christ; let’s be diligent in seeking how God can use us in our homes, our church, and in our community.

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