BIBLE STUDY SERIES #509, 510 and 511

26 August, 2001

DEUTERONOMY 14-15: FOOD LAWS & TITHES - PART II

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our series of Bible Studies on the Great Plan by which The Almighty God is steadily drawing His Creation towards the perfection of His Kingdom reveals that this plan centres upon the formation of one selected line of people chronicled in The Scriptural Record, which descends through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and thence through the whole history of the nation of Israel, and therein to provide, in the person of Jesus Christ, the focal point of His mighty purpose. This series has brought us from the call of Abram in Genesis 12, and the formation of a national entity through which it has pleased Almighty God to work in accomplishing that task, down to Deuteronomy 14, and the prospect of The Promised Land upon the borders of which Israel now stood. The aged Prophet, Moses, is, in this chapter, carrying forward his last great sequence of addresses to the Tribes of Israel prior to their crossing of the Jordan River into the Promised Land, and concerning the new circumstances which Israel will encounter as they enter that land. We are presently at about the mid-point of Moses' Second Discourse which began at Deuteronomy 4:44 and continues onward to Deuteronomy 26:19

We are now in the process of concluding our study, of Deuteronomy 14, a passage which relates further statutes and judgments which are to have their more direct application when the nation of Israel actually comes into possession of the Land of Canaan. We have read the passages from Deuteronomy 14 which repeat the theme which was previously found in Leviticus 11, on the matter of clean and unclean foods. Those which may be eaten are distinguished from those deemed unclean, and thus inappropriate to be treated as food by Israelites, but of course, these are often eaten by other peoples not conversant with God's commandments regarding cleanliness of life. We inserted comments at appropriate verse breaks on those passages which were covered, namely verses 1 to 20, and conclude the chapter beginning at verse 21:

21. Ye shall not eat of any thing that dieth of itself: thou shalt give it unto the stranger that is in thy gates, that he may eat it; or thou mayest sell it unto an alien: for thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk.

Not eating "of any thing that dieth of itself" is a common sense command, in regard to flesh which might be diseased or contaminated, and the last sentence has given rise to varied interpretation, such as forbidding the eating of dairy and meat produce at the same meal. The New Bible Commentary states that "This unnatural custom was practised by the Canaanites, as a charm to promote fertility." Continuing at verse 22:

22. Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year.
23. And thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always.
24. And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from thee, which the LORD thy God shall choose to set his name there, when the LORD thy God hath blessed thee:
25. Then shalt thou turn it into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose:

Keil and Delitzsch explain "turn it into money" as being literally "give it up for silver", and "bind up the money in thine hand" is to bind the silver in a purse....

26. And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household,
27. And the Levite that is within thy gates; thou shalt not forsake him; for he hath no part nor inheritance with thee.
28. At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates:
29. And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest.

Here, Keil and Delitzsch explain that this would fall at the end of the civil year, every third year, when the whole of the tithe from the year's produce would be brought forth, and left within the town, for the feeding of the Levites and all who were in need. This tithe was not to be carried to the sanctuary, the national focus of worship, but was to be distributed twice every sabbatical year. They explain thus: "Twice, therefore, within the period of a sabbatical year, namely in the third and sixth years, the tithe set apart for a sacrificial meal was not to be eaten at the sanctuary, but to be used in the different towns of the land in providing festal meals for those who had no possessions, viz. the Levites, strangers, widows, and orphans." Thus, this is the "poor tithe."

These commands are really quite self-explanatory. Tithing was an ancient custom, and basically expressed gratitude or devotion. The New Bible Commentary explains: "The basic principle underlying the offering of tithes is the same as that of the sabbath law... . All man's wealth, as all his time, is God's gift, and held in trust for Him ... . To mark the sacredness of the whole, a definite proportion is to be set apart and dedicated at the sanctuary... . In Numbers xviii. 20-27 the people were bidden, when settled in the land, to set aside a tenth of its produce for the Levites, in lieu of an inheritance, and they in turn were to give a tenth part of their portion to the house of Aaron." The Commentary notes "The offering of tithes and firstfruits affords an opportunity for feasting and generous kindness to all 'within thy gates' (27)."

We now move on to Deuteronomy 15. We will not be able to finish this chapter today, but we can make a start on its study. Reading from Deuteronomy 15:1-11:

1. At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release.
2. And this is the manner of the release: Every creditor that lendeth ought unto his neighbour shall release it; he shall not exact it of his neighbour, or of his brother; because it is called the LORD'S release.
3. Of a foreigner thou mayest exact it again: but that which is thine with thy brother thine hand shall release;
4. Save when there shall be no poor among you; for the LORD shall greatly bless thee in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it:
5. Only if thou carefully hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all these commandments which I command thee this day.
6. For the LORD thy God blesseth thee, as he promised thee: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, but thou shalt not borrow; and thou shalt reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over thee.
7. If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother:
8. But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth.
9. Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the LORD against thee, and it be sin unto thee.
10. Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto.
11. For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.

From time to time, we find that even the experts differ over the meaning intended to be taken by the reader from a certain Scripture passage, and this portion which we have just read forms one such example. It is evident that there exists some controversy over the nature of the release of debts outlined in this passage. In regard to those debts incurred by an Israelite during the specified period, Keil and Delitzsch hold that the seventh year forms a one-year, temporary relaxation from the ongoing repayments incurred, while The New Bible Commentary takes the attitude that the debt is totally cancelled, when the seventh year arrives. The Companion Bible notes are not so definitive as to answer the question raised.

Keil and Delitzsch state that the Hebrew word which translates as "release" in the AV holds the meaning of "to let lie, to let go ... which, they hold, does not signify a remission of the debt, the relinquishing of all claim for payment ... but simply lengthening the term, not pressing for payment. To some extent The Companion Bible note may tend to confirm this as it compares this to the one-year "rest for the land" enjoined in Exodus and Leviticus. The New Bible Commentary, to the contrary, heads its note "The Lord's release" and that reference begins thus: "In this ordinance we get near to the heart of God, full of compassion and mercy... . Every seventh year there was to be a release or 'letting go' for the debtor (2) and for the bondservant (12), probably the same year in which the rest was ordained for the land." Reference is made to Exodus 23 and to Exodus 24 and Leviticus 25 in this connection, and that source adds the note that "Jewish commentators agree that the remission of the loan was not temporary, but absolute, so that it became a gift." I, personally, have generally inclined to the latter view, but I note with respect those holding to the contrary opinion.

We shall continue with this chapter on our next Bible Study.

2 September, 2001

DEUTERONOMY 15: RELEASE AND FIRSTLINGS

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our series of Bible Studies on the Great Plan by which The Almighty God is steadily drawing His Creation towards the perfection of His Kingdom reveals that this plan centres upon the formation of one selected line of people chronicled in The Scriptural Record, which descends through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and thence through the whole history of the nation of Israel, and therein to provide, in the person of Jesus Christ, the focal point of His mighty purpose. This series has brought us from the call of Abram in Genesis 12, and the formation of a national entity through which it has pleased Almighty God to work in accomplishing that task, down to Deuteronomy 15, and the prospect of The Promised Land upon the borders of which Israel now stood. The aged Prophet, Moses, is, in this chapter, carrying forward his last great sequence of addresses to the Tribes of Israel prior to their crossing of the Jordan River into the Promised Land, and concerning the new circumstances which Israel will encounter as they enter that land. We are presently at about the mid-point of Moses' Second Discourse which began at Deuteronomy 4:44 and continues onward to Deuteronomy 26:19

We are now in the process of concluding our study, of Deuteronomy 15, a passage which relates further laws which are to have their more direct application when the nation of Israel actually comes into possession of the Land of Canaan. We have read the passages from Deuteronomy 15 down to verse 11, a passage in which we saw that every seventh year was to form a year of debt release for fellow Israelites who had needed to borrow during the previous six years, and today, after a brief review of those same verses in order to give the setting, we will be turning our attention to the remainder of that 15th chapter. The first eleven verses conveyed the rules concerning the debt-release in the following manner and I would add one comment arising from the passage which was not mentioned on the last study:

1. At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release.
2. And this is the manner of the release: Every creditor that lendeth ought unto his neighbour shall release it; he shall not exact it of his neighbour, or of his brother; because it is called the LORD'S release.
3. Of a foreigner thou mayest exact it again: but that which is thine with thy brother thine hand shall release;

I might just add, a further point concerning the contention by Keil and Delitzsch to the effect that an Israelite's debt was not wiped out, but simply that payments were deferred during the year of release. They note that the foreigner would not have observed the seventh rest-year or year of release of the land from productivity, and hence such a person would have the income from their land during that year and thus would be in a position to supply payments on the loan, whereas the observant Israelite would be denied such income during that year. In that regard, though, I believe that we ought also to remember that God promised the observant Israelite a double portion in his sixth year to compensate for such lack of income from his fallow ground during the seventh year, and that the release is called the LORD'S release. It is out of such cross-currents of deliberations that there arise interpretive views which differ from one another! Continuing:

4. Save when there shall be no poor among you; for the LORD shall greatly bless thee in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it:
5. Only if thou carefully hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all these commandments which I command thee this day.
6. For the LORD thy God blesseth thee, as he promised thee: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, but thou shalt not borrow; and thou shalt reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over thee.
7. If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother:
8. But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth.
9. Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the LORD against thee, and it be sin unto thee.
10. Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto.
11. For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.

There follow more verses which treat of the subject of a release as it applies to an Hebrew bond-servant. Let us see what Moses now explained to the multitudes of Israel gathered together for this time of preparation as they look towards the day when they are to enter Canaan.

12. And if thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee.
13. And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty:
14. Thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the LORD thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him.
15. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the LORD thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing to day.

Keil and Delitzsch point out that at verse 13, there is a new feature added in the manner by which the released brother Hebrew goes out from his station of service. He is to receive from the master's flock, his granary and his oil and wine, to give him a fresh start in his new situation of freedom. Here, also, we ought to pause, and to meditate upon those words in verse 15. We should note that the dreadful experiences of the Israelites under the bondage of the Pharaoh "who knew not Joseph"; experiences which eventually included the order that all Israelitish male babies should be consigned to the Nile River, and, thereby, effectively to the crocodiles therein, were designed for an eventual blessing. It was the process to prepare a "royal priesthood" for humanity (Exodus 19:6 and I Peter 2:9) that bore in its national and racial imprint the memory of that experience. It was designed to the end that, with developing status as rulers, they might be conditioned to sympathise with the lot of others. It was planned by the God of all creation as an experience which would eventuate in vast benefits to humanity at large, as we take the long-term view down the corridor of time and to the ultimate out-working of History.

We, of The British-Israel-World Federation, being constantly aware of the descent of the Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples from those ancient Israelites, thus view the efforts of the likes of William Wilberforce, in his persistent, and finally successful, efforts in the British Parliament to put a halt to slavery throughout the British Empire as evidence of such an heritage from our past. Continuing at verse 16:


16. And it shall be, if he say unto thee, I will not go away from thee; because he loveth thee and thine house, because he is well with thee;
17. Then thou shalt take an aul, and thrust it through his ear unto the door, and he shall be thy servant for ever. And also unto thy maidservant thou shalt do likewise.
18. It shall not seem hard unto thee, when thou sendest him away free from thee; for he hath been worth a double hired servant to thee, in serving thee six years: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all that thou doest.

We ought to take note that an additional point is here added which did not appear specifically in the law as stated in Exodus 21:2-11. It is the inclusion of a "maidservant" to be treated on the same basis and in the same manner as the "bondman." It concerns those who had voluntarily undertaken bonded service, not those sold into concubinage as in Exodus 21:7. This law may, at first sight seem somewhat odd to the ear of someone living today, and not conversant with the ancient setting wherein slavery and service by bondservants formed the general rule of life for all of society. The relationship might be a far more prosperous and happy one for a servant than the alternative prospect of freedom in a time of hunger and want, and this law was thus a provision for those who might have found the position in service of greater comfort and congeniality than the circumstances which might attend their release. A guest speaker at one of our recent Conventions unfolded a quite satisfying spiritual extension in regard to the ear being thrust through with an aul to the door at the time of release, (specifically at the Feast of Tabernacles), in the following concept. Christ is "the Door", and also our "Redeemer." We are to open our ear to hear his voice and be obedient to the call to remain in God's house. Concluding the chapter, we read:

19. All the firstling males that come of thy herd and of thy flock thou shalt sanctify unto the LORD thy God: thou shalt do no work with the firstling of thy bullock, nor shear the firstling of thy sheep.
20. Thou shalt eat it before the LORD thy God year by year in the place which the LORD shall choose, thou and thy household.
21. And if there be any blemish therein, as if it be lame, or blind, or have any ill blemish, thou shalt not sacrifice it unto the LORD thy God.
22. Thou shalt eat it within thy gates: the unclean and the clean person shall eat it alike, as the roebuck, and as the hart.
23. Only thou shalt not eat the blood thereof; thou shalt pour it upon the ground as water.

Israel is "Yahweh's firstborn" (Exodus 4:22). Here the law of firstlings, as in Exodus 13, emphasizes the principle that all firstborn creatures should be dedicated to Jehovah since all life is His gift. We shall continue our Studies next week.

9 September, 2001

DEUTERONOMY 16: THREE FEASTS AND JUSTICE

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our series of Bible Studies on the Great Plan by which The Almighty God is steadily drawing His Creation towards the perfection of His Kingdom reveals that this plan centres upon the formation of one selected line of people chronicled in The Scriptural Record, which descends through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and thence through the whole history of the nation of Israel, and therein to provide, in the person of Jesus Christ, the focal point of His mighty purpose. This series has brought us from the call of Abram in Genesis 12, and the formation of a national entity through which it has pleased Almighty God to work in accomplishing that task, down to Deuteronomy 16, and the prospect of The Promised Land upon the borders of which Israel now stood. The aged Prophet, Moses, is, in this chapter, carrying forward his last great sequence of addresses to the Tribes of Israel prior to their crossing of the Jordan River into the Promised Land, and concerning the new circumstances which Israel will encounter as they enter that land. We are presently at about the mid-point of Moses' Second Discourse which began at Deuteronomy 4:44 and continues onward to Deuteronomy 26:19

We are now at the start of our study of Deuteronomy 16, a passage which relates further laws which are to have their more direct application when the nation of Israel actually comes into possession of the Land of Canaan. On the last study we read the passages from Deuteronomy 15 which dealt with matters relating to the seventh year of release from bondage, both economic and servitude, and we finished by having a look at the law concerning the dedication or offering of the firstlings. Today, as we move to the next chapter, we find that three feasts form the focus in the first portion, followed by matters relating to the administration of justice, and a note concerning the forbidden heathen symbols.

As is our usual approach, we will read Deuteronomy 16, inserting comments at appropriate points as we progress. Right at the start, we find mention of the month Abib, which is, according to The Companion Bible, an Egyptian word, meaning "green ears.' This is the last mention of that name for the month, as the name "Nisan" substitutes hereafter in the Scriptural record.

The whole subject of the first of the three feasts treated in this chapter, namely, The Passover, is here summarized in brief, together with the centrality which it held in the whole development of The Exodus.

1. Observe the month of Abib, and keep the passover unto the LORD thy God: for in the month of Abib the LORD thy God brought thee forth out of Egypt by night.
2. Thou shalt therefore sacrifice the passover unto the LORD thy God, of the flock and the herd, in the place which the LORD shall choose to place his name there.
3. Thou shalt eat no leavened bread with it; seven days shalt thou eat unleavened bread therewith, even the bread of affliction; for thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt in haste: that thou mayest remember the day when thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of thy life.

The Companion Bible note on "bread of affliction" indicates "bread which is the symbol of their affliction in Egypt", and at the reference to "in haste", it comments "Not the reason given in Ex. 12. 17 for the Exodus. But here the reason why the bread was unleavened. There was no time for it to 'rise' by fermentation." In the next verse, "leavened = fermented." The New Bible Commentary points out that, whereas, in the wilderness, the people had dwelt in tents, gathered about the Tabernacle, when they enter Canaan, they are to gather together to emphasize their unity as the people of God. "The Passover feast was closely associated with that of unleavened bread (3). For the former, a lamb was prescribed (Ex. xii. 21) to be sacrificed in the evening; for the latter, a ram and bullocks from 'the herd' (Nu. xxviii. 19) were offered on the following day." Remembrance is one of the keynotes of Deuteronomy. "The New Testament antitype of the Passover is also a feast of remembrance (Lk. xxii. 19), to be celebrated with a putting away of the leaven of malice and wickedness (I Cor. v. 7, 8)."

4. And there shall be no leavened bread seen with thee in all thy coast seven days; neither shall there any thing of the flesh, which thou sacrificedst the first day at even, remain all night until the morning.
5. Thou mayest not sacrifice the passover within any of thy gates, which the LORD thy God giveth thee:
6. But at the place which the LORD thy God shall choose to place his name in, there thou shalt sacrifice the passover at even, at the going down of the sun, at the season that thou camest forth out of Egypt.
7. And thou shalt roast and eat it in the place which the LORD thy God shall choose: and thou shalt turn in the morning, and go unto thy tents.
8. Six days thou shalt eat unleavened bread: and on the seventh day shall be a solemn assembly to the LORD thy God: thou shalt do no work therein.
9. Seven weeks shalt thou number unto thee: begin to number the seven weeks from such time as thou beginnest to put the sickle to the corn.

At verse 7, The Companion Bible states "roast = cook."

Next, we find a summary review of the Feast of Weeks, seven weeks following the day after the sabbath. This gives rise, in the Christian calendar, to the 50 days after Easter, when Pentecost is observed.

10. And thou shalt keep the feast of weeks unto the LORD thy God with a tribute of a freewill offering of thine hand, which thou shalt give unto the LORD thy God, according as the LORD thy God hath blessed thee:
11. And thou shalt rejoice before the LORD thy God, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite that is within thy gates, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are among you, in the place which the LORD thy God hath chosen to place his name there.
12. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in Egypt: and thou shalt observe and do these statutes.

Third in the list of three annual Feasts stands The Feast of Tabernacles, which marked the end of the agricultural year after the harvesting of barley and wheat, and after the vintage. Seven days are designated. The New Bible Commentary points out meaning in these words: "It becomes a symbol of the ingathering of God's elect and the outpouring of His wrath in judgment ... at the end of the age. It adds "In Nu. xxix. 35 an eighth day is mentioned, a 'great day' of rejoicing ... ."

13. Thou shalt observe the feast of tabernacles seven days, after that thou hast gathered in thy corn and thy wine:
14. And thou shalt rejoice in thy feast, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite, the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are within thy gates.
15. Seven days shalt thou keep a solemn feast unto the LORD thy God in the place which the LORD shall choose: because the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all thine increase, and in all the works of thine hands, therefore thou shalt surely rejoice.
16. Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the LORD empty:
17. Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD thy God which he hath given thee.

As pointed out in The New Bible Commentary, Moses reviews the manner of appointment of Judges and Officers. (At verse 19 we note that to take a gift means to take a bribe.) Moses had previously recalled "the appointment of judges and officers in the wilderness: he now provides for the civil jurisdiction by enjoining the appointment of these throughout the tribes. In patriarchal times village and tribal 'elders' had settled disputes; these still retained a certain authority ... ."

18. Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, throughout thy tribes: and they shall judge the people with just judgment.
19. Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous.
20. That which is altogether just shalt thou follow, that thou mayest live, and inherit the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

Last, in this chapter, we find mention of heathen practices which are to be totally forbidden.

21. Thou shalt not plant thee a grove of any trees near unto the altar of the LORD thy God, which thou shalt make thee.
22. Neither shalt thou set thee up any image; which the LORD thy God hateth.

The heathen symbols mentioned here are taken, by The New Bible Commentary, to be authentication of the antiquity of the Mosaic record. It is pointed out that "it is always the Canaanite forms of worship which supply the background of these prohibitions and not those which were introduced from surrounding countries at a later period. It should be noted that the erection of altars other than at the central sanctuary is not prohibited." Mention of asherah and standing stones brings to mind several recent articles in The Biblical Archaeology Review of May/June, 2001, among which a somewhat provocative suggestion is made that links "Yahweh and his Asherah," by stating "The Debate Continues." Perhaps we ought to submit the suggestion that if an "Asherah" is a wife to a god, then the Bible names "Yahweh's Asherah", because God's "wife" is none other than the Nation of Israel at Sinai. Perhaps that suggestion will further increase the provocative nature of "the Debate"! We shall continue our Bible Studies next week.

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