🔼The name Lydia in the Bible
The name Lydia is applied to one woman and one country in the Bible. The one and only female Lydia in the Bible was Paul's first European convert; a woman originally from Thyatira but living in Philippi in Macedonia, working as a trader in purple fabrics (Acts 16:14). Thyatira (now Akhisar in western Turkey) was made a Macedonian colony in 290 BC and became part of Pergamum in 190 BC. But long before all that, Thyatira was known as Pelopia, and was probably founded by the Lydians, who were once a people that dominated western Anatolia, which is Asia Minor, during the 6th and 7th centuries BC.
The Lydians originated as Hittites, who had moved north after their kingdom fell. The Romans believed that the Etruscans came from Lydia, and that the Lydians, specifically the Ephesians had invented the monetary coin. This sounds wonderfully productive but it's not really. See the note below.
The country called Lydia is referred to by John the Revelator but not actually named. It's the area that contains the cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea (1:11).
🔼Etymology of the name Lydia
The Lydians called themselves Sfard, but for some reason, the Greeks began to call them the Meiones, and their kingdom Maionia, until a king Lydus came along and the Greeks began to call them the Lydians of Lydia. In the Old Testament occurs the name Ludim, which in some translations (NIV for instance) interprets as Lydians or men from Lydia (Jeremiah 46:9, Ezekiel 27:10 & 30:5). Other translations have kept the Hebrew names Lud and Ludim.
There's also a town in Hebrew called לד (Lod — 1 Chronicles 8:12, Ezra 2:33) which in the Greek of the New Testament is called Λυδδα (Lydda — Acts 9:32). It was situated where now the Tell Aviv airport is (says Spiros Zodhiates).
Someone from לוד (Lud) would be called לודי (Luday). A female Ludite would be called לודיה (Ludyah), which transliterated into Greek would form Λυδια (Luddia). That name transliterated into Latin forms our familiar name Lydia.
The name Lydia, therefore, means From Lud, but since Lud means Bender or Almond Tree, the name Lydia means From The Bender, or From The Almond Tree. Trees were of enormous significance in the old world; think of Abraham beneath his oaks (possibly denoting weakness or foolishness, which in turn necessitates social bonding), Deborah beneath her palm (possibly denoting justice), and Nathanael under his fig tree (possibly denoting an immature state of righteousness).
What the almond would have signified is hard to guess at, but perhaps an ability to bend into whatever way; to adapt. The Lydians, after all, arose from the shards of the Hittite empire, and the Etruscans arose from the Lydians, and the rise of the Romans may have been helped by the Etruscans, and surely by their varied use of coin money.
Another famous name that's really an ethnonym is Magdalene.
🔼Lydia, the coin and the gospel
The invention of the coin brought about two major changes in culture. The first, most obvious change was an increased ease to indebt and thus enslave people. Coinage made it easier for rulers to tax subjects and to pay soldiers, meaning that it became much easier to form and maintain a standing army. These fighting men wouldn't even have to be convinced about the justice of their deeds, as before, because with the invention of coinage, business was business and nothing personal.
Secondly, the coin with its image and brief, stylized message on it, was the first real mass medium for propaganda. A king who had sacked a neighboring kingdom could turn the looted gold and silver into coins with his face and name on it, so that with every transaction, people could see with their own eyes how much wealth the king had brought into the country. And that had as curious side effect that a unit of precious metal could become more or less valuable, depending on the persuasions of the people that transacted with cash.
That meant that demonizing a rival could effectively devaluate his money, and that's where the various currencies and exchange rates came from. By inventing the exchange rate, people where able to create phantom value; theoretical value not coupled to goods or services, which in turn meant that goods and services with intrinsic value could lose their market value. And this led to a new kind of warfare that could leave other people just as devastated, but for which no one had to be bothered with activities that people might come to abhor, such as actual warfare and genocide. Coinage and currency exchange allowed people to break all of the Ten Commandments without actually breaking them personally, which is of course wonderfully convenient (Matthew 21:12).
The gospel which Paul carried to Lydia was probably quite different than the condensed version we find on billboards of churches today. Nowadays we love to be reminded that two thousand years ago a selfless act of a super-human relieved us of all our responsibilities except having to obey authorities (such as governments, bosses, popes and such). Back then (before governments and popes had had the opportunity to explain the gospel for two thousand years), Jesus of Nazareth still stood for the one's personal conscience, one's personal hotline to God, and one's personal responsibility to not partake in any kind of injustice, from waging war for profit, to inflating people's livelihoods (by exchanging money), to financing the destruction of crop and livestock diversity and the genetic balance of the biosphere (by buying from certain restaurant chains and food producers), to financing the destruction of entire local economies (by buying products from certain multinationals), to endorsing the deforestation of essential and sacred habitats (by gassing up at your local filling station).
Nowadays it's virtually impossible to be righteous, but at least they don't crucify people anymore, so it's also a lot easier to give it a go.
🔼Giving righteousness a go
If the name Immanuel means anything to you: do stuff for free. Happily pay more for locally produced stuff than stuff produced by children in somebody else's country. Be aware of how the stuff you buy was produced (which could lead to the next wiki-based super-website; any takers?) and form your preferences not by going after the lowest price but by going after the least harm caused.
Please stop deluding yourself by believing that the earth is being helped to hell by corporations and governments, because those are nothing but organically formed manifestations of the will of the people. Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God. His sacrifice on the cross liberated all of us, not from responsibility but from powerlessness. Since Golgotha, humanity is a ship with seven billion rudders. Since Golgotha, the ordinary consumer has the power to steer humanity, either towards well-deserved destruction or else toward a paradise that would boggle the minds of the most optimistic thinkers.
Make no mistake about it. There's great trouble ahead for those who call themselves Christians, who go to church and pray their prayers and in the mean time destroy God's precious creation while realizing that they shouldn't (Matthew 7:21-23, Matthew 25:31-46). The same folks who once screamed, "Give us Barabbas!" are now crying, "Give us 50 cent chicken nuggets!" and there will always be weaklings among us willing to become Roman governors and CEOs and slay the innocents in order to give the people what the people want. It's us; you and me, the average, ordinary consumer who's casting a vote with every purchase. Just a simple cessation of buying bad stuff will make the bad corporations go away like a dark cloud. The earth could be in shipshape and shining like a new dime in fifty years. And it could also be a barren wasteland in which my children are hunting down your children because there's nothing else to eat.