CHAPTER V

ISRAEL THE CHANNEL OF WORLD BLESSING

ONE of the greatest speeches, humanly speaking, ever made was delivered by the Apostle Paul to the intellectuals of the Athenian Supreme Court. The depths of this masterpiece of logic and oratory have never been uncovered, nor have the heights been explored.

22 ... Ye men of Athens, in all things, I perceive that ye are very religious. 23 For as I passed along, and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. What therefore ye worship in ignorance, this I set forth unto you. 24 The God that made the world and all things therein, he, being Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; 25 neither is he served by men's hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he himself giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; 26 and he made of one every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed seasons, and the bounds of their habitation; 27 that they should seek God, if haply they might feel after him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us: 28 for in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain even of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. 29 Being then the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and device of man. 30 The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked; but now he commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent: 31 inasmuch as he hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. (Acts 17:22b-31).

Skimming the surface of the Scriptures, one sees that God has plans and specifications, so to speak, which He followed in His creating the universe and in His guiding and directing all human affairs—toward a grand and glorious consummation. In the center of God's plan are the children of Israel. We see this fact as events move forward through the centuries of human history. When God dispersed the people from Babel and scattered them over the world, He directed each group and related all of them to the children of Israel—evidently for a purpose.

    8 When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance,
    When he separated the children of men,
    He set the bounds of the peoples
    According to the number of the children of Israel.
    9 For Jehovah's portion is his people;
    Jacob is the lot of his inheritance (Deut. 32:8,9).¹

According to Ezekiel 38:12, the Holy Land is the center of the earth. Since Abraham and his seed are by divine election related to all nations, it was eminently fitting for God to give the Holy Land to them in order that they might become the channel of blessing to all peoples.


I. DIVINE PROMISE TO THE PATRIARCHS

A. To Abraham

God, who knows the hearts of all men, saw in Abraham the possibilities of a faithful servant. He, therefore, called him forth from the heathen country in which he was born to a land which He promised to show him:

"Now Jehovah said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto the land that I will show thee: 2 and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and be thou a blessing: 3 and I will bless them that bless thee, and him that curseth thee will I curse: and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed" (Gen. 12:1-3).

Frequently the call of God is to separation and service. There is always, however, a marvelous reward for the one who in faith obeys.

"And Jehovah said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art, northward and southward and eastward and westward: 15 for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever" (Gen. 13:14,15).

When Abraham, by faith, rescued his selfish nephew, Lot, and refused to be enriched by gifts from the king of Sodom, God promised to be his shield and his exceeding great reward.

15 After these things the word of Jehovah came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. 2 And Abram said, O Lord Jehovah, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and he that shall be possessor of my house is Eliezer of Damascus? 3 And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir. 4 And, behold, the word of Jehovah came unto him, saying, This man shall not be thine heir; But he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. 5 And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and number the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. 6 And he believed in Jehovah; and he reckoned it to him for righteousness. (Gen. 15:1-6).

At the command of God Abraham took Isaac, his only son, and attempted to sacrifice him to the Lord. Before he could make the fatal stroke, God commanded him to stop. There was a ram caught in the underbrush. Believing in the overruling providence of God, Abraham took the ram and sacrificed him. "And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt-offering in the stead of his son" (Gen. 22:13). Then Abraham called the name of the place "Jehovah-jireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of Jehovah it shall be provided" (v. 14).

The angel of Jehovah called Abraham the second time saying,

15 And the angel of Jehovah called unto Abraham a second time out of heaven, 16 and said, By myself have I sworn, saith Jehovah, because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, 17 that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is upon the seashore; And thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; 18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; Because thou hast obeyed my voice. (Gen. 22:15-18).

According to this promise, God intends to bless all nations in and through the seed of Abraham.

B. To Isaac

To Isaac God reaffirmed His oath regarding his posterity and the future plan regarding blessing all nations through his seed.

2 And Jehovah appeared unto him, and said, Go not down into Egypt; Dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of: 3 Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; For unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father. 4 And I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these lands. And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; 5 Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws (Gen. 26:2-5).

C. To Jacob

When Jacob was at Bethel, in flight from the wrath of his brother Esau, God appeared to him in a dream and assured him that in his seed should all the families of the earth be blessed.

12 And he dreamed: and, behold, a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and, behold, the angels of God ascending and descending on it. 13 And, behold, Jehovah stood above it, and said, I am Jehovah, the God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed: 14 and thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee whithersoever thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of (Gen. 28:12-15).

Thus to Abrahams literal descendants through Isaac and Jacob is the promise made that God will bless all families of the earth. Ishmael was a literal seed of Abraham, but he was excluded. Esau was a literal seed of Isaac, and he also was excluded. This promise made to Jacob, as well as that made to Abraham and Isaac, includes only those that descend from Abraham through Isaac, his son, and through Jacob, his grandson.

What is the meaning of the promise "... In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed" (Gen. 22:18), and "... In thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed" (Gen. 28:14)? Obviously, both statements mean the same thing. One passage uses the word nations and the other, families. The context of the quotation from Genesis 22:18 will assist one in determining the significance of the promise. The angel of Jehovah said,

16 By myself have I sworn, saith Jehovah, because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, 17 that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is upon the seashore. And thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies. 18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; Because thou hast obeyed my voice. (Gen. 22:16-18).

According to verse 17, the time here foreseen is the era when God multiplies the Jewish people as the stars of the heavens, and his seed possesses the gate of His enemies. When these promises are fulfilled, God will bless all nations in and through the seed of Abraham. In the light of these facts it is obvious that the time here foreseen is the great Kingdom Age of the future.

What is meant by "seed"? The word in the original Hebrew is a collective noun, and has two significations. Sometimes in a given context it refers to the Messiah of Israel (Gal. 3:16); whereas, in another setting it refers to Abraham's literal descendants (Gen. 15:5). In Genesis 22:17 both meanings appear. The literal descendants are referred to in the statement, "In multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is upon the seashore"; but in the prediction, "And thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies ...," the Messiah is referred to, because He is the One who alone will conquer the world and establish a regime of righteousness in all nations. "Behold, my servant [Messiah], whom I uphold; my chosen, in whom my soul delighteth: I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the Gentiles" (Isa. 42:1). Clearly then this promise has never been fulfilled.

Some expositors, however, think that, because certain ones in the various nations have received a blessing through Abraham's literal seed and through the Messiah of Israel, the promise has already been fulfilled. But notice the exact words of the promise, "all nations"—not individuals of the nations—are to be blessed. According to this promise, in no sense then can one say that the promise has already been fulfilled. It therefore awaits fulfillment in the future in earth's Golden Era.


II. ISRAEL'S PLACE IN THE PLAN OF GOD


According to the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the blessing of all nations is tied up with the Jewish people—the seed of Abraham—as seen in many passages. At that time King Messiah will have returned and established His world-wide kingdom, in which all tribes, families, and nations will be included.

A. Messiah, King Of Kings

The Messiah of Israel comes to earth, being born of a virgin, and becomes the ruler of the entire world: "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" (Isa. 7:14).

6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of Jehovah of hosts will perform this (Isa. 9:6,7).

This promise is in accord with the one found in Zechariah 14:9, "And Jehovah shall be King over all the earth: in that day shall Jehovah be one, and his name one," and in Zephaniah 3:14-17, the prophet shouts:

14 Sing, 0 daughter of Zion; shout, 0 Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, 0 daughter of Jerusalem. 15 Jehovah hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy: the King of Israel, even Jehovah, is in the midst of thee; thou shalt not fear evil any more. 16 In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not; 0 Zion, let not thy hands be slack. 17 Jehovah thy God is in the midst of thee, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love; he will joy over thee with singing.

According to Zephaniah, Jehovah is to be the King in the midst of His people. This Jehovah who will reign in Israel is none other than Jehovah the Messiah of Israel, who enters the world by miraculous conception and virgin birth. The people of Israel are called upon to rejoice exceedingly because of His reign in the midst of Israel.

B. Jerusalem The Capital Of The World

Notwithstanding what the Antichrist does, it is God's plan to establish His King upon the holy hill of Zion.

    2 Why do the nations rage,
    And the peoples meditate a vain thing?
    2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
    And the rulers take counsel together,
    Against Jehovah, and against his anointed,
    saying,
    3 Let us break their bonds asunder,
    And cast away their cords from us.
    4 He that sitteth in the heavens will laugh:
    The Lord will have them in derision.
    5 Then will he speak unto them in his wrath,
    And vex them in his sore displeasure.
    6 Yet I have set my king
    Upon my holy hill of Zion.
    7 I will tell of the decree:
    Jehovah said unto me, Thou art my son;
    This day have I begotten thee.
    8 Ask of me, and I will give
    thee the nations for thine inheritance,
    And the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.
    9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron;
    Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel (Ps. 2:1-9).

With Messiah thus installed as King in Zion, His kingdom will reach to the ends of the earth.

2 The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. 2 And it shall come to pass in the latter days, that the mountain of Jehovah's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. 3 And many peoples shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem. 4 And he will judge between the nations, and will decide concerning many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more (Isa. 2:1-4).

C. Israel The Head Of The Nations

In the language of Moses Israel has been, and still is, the tail of the nations. When Messiah returns and asserts His authority, Israel will be the head of the nations. "And Jehovah will make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if thou shalt hearken unto the commandments of Jehovah thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them" (Deut. 28:13). When Israel becomes the head of the nations, the peoples of the world will render service to Israel whom God will make the head of the nations.

11 Thy gates also shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day nor night; that men may bring unto thee the wealth of the nations, and their kings led captive. 12 For that nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted. 13 The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee, the fir-tree, the pine, and the box-tree together, to beautify the place of my sanctuary;  and I will make the place of my feet glorious. 14 And the sons of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee; and all they that despised thee shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet; and they shall call thee The city of Jehovah, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel (Isa. 60:11-14).

D. The Earth Freed From The Curse

When man rebelled against God, as is seen in Genesis, chapter 3, the curse of the Almighty fell upon all the earth. Since then, to the present time, the creation groans under this curse, but God promises to lift it and to deliver the world from the crushing load of sin.

When the curse is lifted, Edenic conditions will prevail throughout the earth.

17 For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. 18 But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create; for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. 19 And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people; and there shall be heard in her no more the voice of weeping and the voice of crying. 20 There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days; for the child shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner being a hundred years old shall be accursed. 21 And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. 22 They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree shall be the days of my people, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. 23 They shall not labor in vain, nor bring forth for calamity; for they are the seed of the blessed of Jehovah, and their offspring with them. 24 And it shall come to pass that, before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear. 25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox; and dust shall be the serpent's food. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith Jehovah (Isa. 65:17-25).


III. THE UNFOLDING OF THE DIVINE PLAN

When God created Adam and Eve, He placed them in the Garden of Eden, an ideal spot for them, considered from every angle. Satan who is the enemy of God and of all that is good, plotted man's downfall. The Lord Jesus Christ, to His enemies who were attacking Him, laid bare Satan's innermost heart: "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father it is your will to do, He was a murderer from the beginning, and standeth not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father thereof" (John 8:44). In accordance with a well-laid plot to accomplish the downfall of the human race, Satan approached man by sending the serpent, who was more subtle than any beast of the field, and who planted in Eve's mind doubt concerning God's goodness to her. The misgivings and suspicions thus planted in the heart of Eve caused her to put a wrong construction on the words and the actions of God, to add to His words, and finally to disobey Him.

On this occasion, did Satan influence the serpent, a mere animal, using him as a cat's paw; or did he himself assume the form of a serpent? That at times he does change his appearance is certain from the language of the Apostle Paul. At Corinth certain false teachers posed as apostles of Christ. Concerning these impostors the inspired Apostle declares: "And no marvel; for even Satan fashioneth himself into an angel of light. 15 It is no great thing therefore if his ministers also fashion themselves as ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works" (II Cor. 11:14,15). The Apostle John in Revelation 20:2 speaks of Satan on this wise; "And he laid hold on the dragon, the old serpent, which is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years." The dragon, to which reference is made in the Book of Revelation, is a symbol of Satan, whom John called the old serpent the Devil. This language can mean that Satan assumed the form of the serpent. Obviously the old serpent of this passage is the serpent of Genesis 3:1. In view of all the facts, one cannot be dogmatic as to which of these positions is correct. In the downfall of the human race, Satan was successful in accomplishing his purpose.


A. Two Basic Prophecies

At the time of the fall, God appeared in the Garden of Eden and reproved the woman for her conduct and Adam for his behaviour. Then turning to the serpent, the Lord said to him, "Because thou has done this, cursed art thou above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life; 15 and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel" (Gen. 3:14,15). The expression, "the seed of the woman," as is recognized by all conservative scholars, is a veiled reference to the Saviour of the world. In this passage, the promise of the deliverer of mankind is in its embryonic form, but in subsequent revelations the full-sized stature of the world deliverer is presented.

A second basic passage is found in Genesis 12:1-3: "Now Jehovah said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto the land that I will show thee: 2 and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and be thou a blessing: 3 and I will bless them that bless thee, and him that curseth thee will I curse: and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed."

In this covenant which God made with Abraham, there are seven marvelous promises. One of the most important promises, if not the most important, is expressed in these words: "in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed." In these words are reflected the plan and purpose of God in bringing blessings to the whole world.

This Abrahamic covenant the Lord repeated to Isaac in the following words: "in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed" (Gen. 26:4).

To Jacob the Lord reaffirmed this covenant and showed him a vision in which he saw a ladder connecting the heavens with the earth, and angels of God ascending and descending on it. "Jehovah stood above it, and said, I am Jehovah, the God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; and thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth ... and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed" (Gen. 28:13,14). From the passages noted above, it is clear that God announced ahead of time that it is His plan and purpose to bless the world through Abraham and his seed. From an examination of all passages bearing upon this subject, it is obvious that the expression thy seed has two connotations: first, Abraham's literal seed through Isaac and Jacob; and second, an individual, the Messiah of Israel, the seed par excellence. That thy seed refers to Abraham's literal descendants is evident from the following facts: God appeared to Abraham one night and said, "Look now toward heaven, and number the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be" (Gen. 15:5). Here, seed indicates Abraham's literal descendants, the Jewish nation. Again in Genesis 22:16-18 God said, "By myself have I sworn ... that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is upon the seashore ..." Without cavil or questionings, seed, in these verses, refers to the literal descendants of Abraham.

In the last clause of verse 17, however,
seed is used in the singular number: "and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies." When this promise is studied in the light of parallel passages from various prophets, it is seen that the Messiah of Israel, the God-man, is the only one who can and will overcome the world power and will reign over all nations. According to Psalm 2:7-9, God the Father in conversation with God the Son, the Messiah, promises:

    7 I will tell of the decree:
    Jehovah said unto me, Thou art my son;
    This day have I begotten thee.
    8 Ask of me, and I will give
    thee the nations for thine inheritance,
    And the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.
    9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron;
    Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.

The Prophet Isaiah also shows that the Messiah is to have world dominion:

6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of Jehovah of hosts will perform this (Isa. 9:6,7).

These two passages show what the promise in Genesis 22:17 means: "and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies."

One sees from the facts presented in the Scripture quoted above that God's plan and purpose is to bless all nations in and through the Jewish people. The term
seed finds its highest expression in the Messiah, through whom the world will eventually be blessed and completely so.

B. Partial Fulfillments

From the time that God made this promise to Abraham to the present hour, He has been blessing all nations through Abraham and his literal descendants. Figuratively speaking, the Lord made Israel the hub of the nations around which all events, of any consequence, revolve.

    8 When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance,
    When he separated the children of men,
    He set the bounds of the peoples
    According to the number of the children of Israel.
    9 For Jehovah's portion is his people;
    Jacob is the lot of his inheritance (Deut. 32:8,9).

To Israel at Mount Sinai the Lord gave the law of Moses. This revelation proved to be a blessing, not only to Israel, but to all nations because the fundamental principles of government, the conduct of men with men, and the basic principles of life have influenced, more or less, all civilized nations. What was true of the revelation through Moses is also true of the messages which God speaks through the Prophets. The messages of God through His servants, the Prophets, quietly and imperceptibly have been affecting the civilized nations of the world and have gradually lifted them to the high level, culturally speaking, where they now stand. This fact becomes evident when the civilized nations of the world are compared to the heathen nations.

God blessed all humanity by sending the Lord Jesus Christ to earth to purchase redemption for every man. Never man spake as He did. Never man lived as He lived. Never man died as He died. Someone has said that Socrates died as a philosopher, but Jesus Christ died as God. Never has any man been raised from the dead as Jesus Christ was raised. He triumphed over death, hell, and the grave, bringing life and immortality to light through the gospel. Wherever the true message of the living and immortal Christ is proclaimed, the blessing of God is felt. Even where a distorted and warped gospel is preached, the influence of the living Christ is in a measure felt.

At different times and in various places of the world, through the preaching of the Cross of Christ, God has sent revival in which numbers of people have been saved. Though, as a rule, such revivals have been greatly limited, a wholesome influence lingers on and to a certain extent affects the people.

Though there have been revivals here and there during the Christian Dispensation, of which there are now a few in local communities, at the present time we need not expect any revivals on a large scale. The proof for this position is set forth in II Timothy 3:1-7:

3 But know this, that in the last days grievious times shall come. 2 For men shall be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, haughty, railers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 without natural affection, implacable, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, no lovers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, puffed up, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; 5 holding a form of godliness, but having denied the power thereof: from these also turn away. 6 For of these are they that creep into houses, and take captive silly women laden with sins, led away by divers lusts, 7 ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.


Footnotes:

¹ According to chronological data found in Scripture, Abraham was born about three centuries later. Since, however, all eternity is one eternal present with the Lord (Isa. 57:15), there is, therefore, with Him no past, present, or future. Nevertheless, in talking to man, He uses human categories, adapting His thoughts to man's understanding.



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