Paul and Silas | Brandon Naramore
Acts 16:9-34: New Revised Standard Version
9 During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.
The Conversion of Lydia11 We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district[c] of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days. 13 On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. 14 A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. 15 When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.” And she prevailed upon us.
Paul and Silas in Prison16 One day, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave-girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. 17 While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you[d] a way of salvation.” 18 She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.
19 But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the authorities. 20 When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, “These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews 21 and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe.” 22 The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods. 23 After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. 24 Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. 27 When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29 The jailer[e] called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 They spoke the word of the Lord[f] to him and to all who were in his house. 33 At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay. 34 He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.
Commentary: R. W. Wall, "The Acts of the Apostles" from New Interpreter’s Bible (Vol. 10). Nashville: Abingdon Press.
“The Holy Spirit is responsible for the plotline of the church’s mission, leading sometimes by divine speech and at other times by heavenly vision. In this case, the Spirit directs Paul by blocking doors in Asia rather than by opening them.”
“The more informal setting allows rabbi Paul to sit with Gentile women gathered there, which may indicate the city lacks a quorum of ten Jewish males to congregate an assembly of Jews for worship.”
Several details of Lydia’s professional résumé indicate her success: She owns her own business and her own home. She is a “dealer in purple cloth” from Thyatira, a city well known for its textile industry (v. 14; cf. Rev 2:18–29). Purple clothing was destined for the rich and royal in the Roman world, where it symbolized power and influence. A merchant in purple cloth, then, is someone who rubbed shoulders daily with society’s rich and famous.
The term “Most High God” is also used in worship of Zeus, to whom her own handlers may be attached and she their “slave” as well.
The species of the girl’s unholy spirit is literally “a pythian spirit” and recalls the Greek Πυθῶν (Pythōn) myth of the dragon that guarded the Delphi oracle at Mt. Parnassus and was killed by Apollo. In Luke’s day, its name and legend were attached to someone with clairvoyant powers or, perhaps, to the trickery of a ventriloquist. The powers or trickery of this slave girl are apparently extraordinary or the Philippian public extremely gullible, since she “brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling” (v. 16).
It is considered unlawful within the premises of a Roman colony to proselytize converts to a non-Roman cult