Lydia (Ludia). Her birthplace was Thyatira in Lydia. She may have been named after the land, though Lydia is a common female name (see Horace). Lydia was itself a Macedonian colony (Strabo, XIII. 4). Thyatira (note plural form like Philippi and one of the seven churches of Asia here Rev 2:18) was famous for its purple dyes as old as Homer (Iliad, IV. 141) and had a guild of dyers (hoi bapheis) as inscriptions show.
A seller of purple (porphuropōlis). A female seller of purple fabrics (porphura, pōlis). Late word, masculine form in an inscription. There was a great demand for this fabric as it was used on the official toga at Rome and in Roman colonies. We still use the term “royal purple.” See note on Luk 16:19. Evidently Lydia was a woman of some means to carry on such an important enterprise from her native city. She may have been a freed-woman, since racial names were often borne by slaves.
One that worshipped God (sebomenē ton theon). A God-fearer or proselyte of the gate. There was a Jewish settlement in Thyatira which was especially interested in the dyeing industry. She probably became a proselyte there. Whether this was true of the other women we do not know. They may have been Jewesses or proselytes like Lydia, probably all of them employees of hers in her business. When Paul writes to the Philippians he does not mention Lydia who may have died meanwhile and who certainly was not Paul’s wife. She was wealthy and probably a widow.
Heard us (ēkouen). Imperfect active of akouō, was listening, really listening and she kept it up, listening to each of these new and strange preachers.
Opened (diēnoixen). First aorist active indicative of dianoigō, old word, double compound (dia, ana, oigō) to open up wide or completely like a folding door (both sides, dia, two). Only the Lord could do that. Jesus had opened (the same verb) the mind of the disciples to understand the Scriptures (Luk 24:45).
To give heed (prosechein). To hold the mind (ton noun understood), present active infinitive. She kept her mind centred on the things spoken by Paul whose words gripped her attention. She rightly perceived that Paul was the foremost one of the group. He had personal magnetism and power of intellect that the Spirit of God used to win the heart of this remarkable woman to Christ. It was worth coming to Philippi to win this fine personality to the Kingdom of God. She will be the chief spirit in this church that will give Paul more joy and co-operation than any of his churches. It is not stated that she was converted on the first Sabbath, though this may have been the case. “One solitary convert, a woman, and she already a seeker after God, and a native of that very Asia where they had been forbidden to preach” (Furneaux). But a new era had dawned for Europe and for women in the conversion of Lydia.