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Judges 14:4

ESV His father and mother did not know that it was from the LORD, for he was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines. At that time the Philistines ruled over Israel.
NIV (His parents did not know that this was from the LORD, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines; for at that time they were ruling over Israel.)
NASB However, his father and mother did not know that this was of the Lord, for He was seeking an occasion against the Philistines. And at that time the Philistines were ruling over Israel.
CSB Now his father and mother did not know this was from the Lord, who wanted the Philistines to provide an opportunity for a confrontation. At that time, the Philistines were ruling Israel.
NLT His father and mother didn’t realize the Lord was at work in this, creating an opportunity to work against the Philistines, who ruled over Israel at that time.
KJV But his father and his mother knew not that it was of the LORD, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.

What does Judges 14:4 mean?

This is arguably the most important statement in Samson's entire story. It is both confusing and comforting—it also helps to explain why someone designated for service to God so often acted in ungodly ways. God's plan to make use of Samson for His purposes included leveraging Samson's own rebellion and foolishness. Samson could not escape God's will for his life even by directly disobeying God's commands. This does not mean God blessed him "for" his sin—Samson will live a chaotic and scandalous life, eventually suffering greatly for his mistakes (Judges 16:21).

During these times of unrest, however, neither Samson nor his parents knew God's plan. They did not see how Samson's stubborn rebellious foolishness would create opportunity for victory over the Philistines oppressing Israel. God finds what He seeks—always (Job 42:2)—even when His people make wrong choices. He will use Samson's rebellion to begin to end the era of the Philistines. Samuel, a judge-turned-prophet, will be the one to complete this task (1 Samuel 7:12–14).

Samson has demanded his parents arrange his marriage to a specific Philistine woman. They have objected, saying he should marry an Israelite woman instead of allying with the uncircumcised Philistines (Deuteronomy 7:1–5; Judges 14:1–3). He stubbornly refused, and they will comply (Judges 14:5).
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