Adam Clarke Commentary
The parable of the marriage of a king‘s son, Matthew 22:1-14. The Pharisees and Herodians question him concerning the lawfulness of paying tribute to Caesar, Matthew 22:15-22. The Sadducees question him concerning the resurrection, Matthew 22:23-33. A lawyer questions him concerning the greatest commandment in the law, Matthew 22:34-40. He asks them their opinion of the Christ, and confounds them, Matthew 22:41-46.
The kingdom of heaven - In Bereshith Rabba, sect. 62. fol. 60, there is a parable very similar to this, and another still more so in Sohar. Levit. fol. 40. But these rabbinical parables are vastly ennobled by passing through the hands of our Lord. It appears from Luke, Luke 14:15; etc., that it was at an entertainment that this parable was originally spoken. It was a constant practice of our Lord to take the subjects of his discourses from the persons present, or from the circumstances of times, persons, and places. See Matthew 16:6; John 4:7-10; John 6:26, John 6:27; John 7:37. A preacher that can do so can never be at a loss for text or sermon.
A marriage for his son - A marriage feast, so the word γαμους properly means. Or a feast of inauguration, when his son was put in possession of the government, and thus he and his new subjects became married together. See 1 Kings 1:5-9, 1 Kings 1:19, 1 Kings 1:25, etc., where such a feast is mentioned.
1.That the King means the great God.
2.His Son, the Lord Jesus.
10.By sending forth his troops, Matthew 22:7, is meant the commission given to the Romans against Judea; and, burning up their city, the total destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, the son of Vespasian, which happened about forty-one years after.
On this parable it is necessary to remark,
1.That man was made at first in union with God.
2.That sin entered in, and separated between God and man.
1st. That of a soft, idle, voluptuous life, wherein a man thinks of nothing but quietly to enjoy life, conveniences, riches, private pleasures, and public diversions. They made light of it.
Fatlings - Τα σιτιϚα Properly, fatted rams, or wethers. 2 Samuel 6:13; 1 Chronicles 15:26.
But when the king - Himself or, this very king. I have added εκεινος on the authority of nine of the most ancient MSS. and nearly one hundred others; the later Syriac, six copies of the Itala, and some of the fathers. Several printed editions have it, and Griesbach has received it into the text.
Were not worthy - Because they made light of it, and would not come; preferring earthly things to heavenly blessings. Among the Mohammedans, refusal to come to a marriage feast, when invited, is considered a breach of the law of God. Hedayah, vol. iv. p. 91. Any one that shall be invited to a dinner, and does not accept the invitation, disobeys God, and his messenger: and any one who comes uninvited, you may say is a thief, and returns a plunderer. - Mischat ul Mesabih. It was probably considered in this light among all the oriental nations. This observation is necessary, in order to point out more forcibly the iniquity of the refusal mentioned in the text. A man may be said to be worthy of, or fit for, this marriage feast, when, feeling his wretchedness and misery, he comes to God in the way appointed, to get an entrance into the holiest, by the blood of Jesus.
Go ye therefore into the highways - Διεξοδους των οδων , cross or by-paths; the places where two or more roads met in one, leading into the city, where people were coming together from various quarters of the country. St. Luke adds hedges, to point out the people to whom the apostles were sent, as either miserable vagabonds, or the most indigent poor, who were wandering about the country, or sitting by the sides of the ways and hedges, imploring relief. This verse points out the final rejection of the Jews, and the calling of the Gentiles. It was a custom among the Jews, when a rich man made a feast, to go out and invite in all destitute travelers. See in Rab. Beracoth, fol. 43.
As many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage - God sends his salvation to every soul, that all may believe and be saved.
Gathered together all - both bad and good - By the preaching of the Gospel, multitudes of souls are gathered into what is generally termed the visible Church of Christ.
This Church is the Floor, where the wheat and the chaff are often mingled, Matthew 3:12.
When the king came - When God shall come to judge the world.
Wedding garment - Among the orientals, long white robes were worn at public festivals; and those who appeared on such occasions with any other garments were esteemed, not only highly culpable, but worthy of punishment. Our Lord seems here to allude to Zephaniah 1:7, Zephaniah 1:8, The Lord hath prepared a Sacrifice, he hath Bidden his guests. And it shall come to pass, in the day of the Lord‘s sacrifice, that I will Punish the princes, and the King‘s Children, and All Such as are clothed with Strange Apparel. The person who invited the guests prepared such a garment for each, for the time being; and with which he was furnished on his application to the ruler of the feast. It was this which made the conduct of the person mentioned in the text inexcusable; he might have had a proper marriage garment, if he had applied for it.
Among the Asiatics, garments called caftans, great numbers of which each nobleman has ordinarily ready in his wardrobe, are given to persons whom he wishes to honor: to refuse to accept or wear such a dress would be deemed the highest insult.
He saith unto him, Friend - Rather, companion: so εταιρε should be translated. As this man represents the state of a person in the visible Church, who neglects to come unto the master of the feast for a marriage garment, for the salvation which Christ has procured, he cannot be with any propriety called a friend, but may well be termed a companion, as being a member of the visible Church, and present at all those ordinances where Christ‘s presence and blessing are found, by all those who sincerely wait upon him for salvation.
How camest thou in hither - Why profess to be called by my name while living without a preparation for my kingdom?
He was speechless - Εφιμωθη , he was muzzled, or gagged. He had nothing to say in vindication of his neglect. There was a garment provided, but he neither put it on, nor applied for it. His conduct, therefore, was in the highest degree insulting and indecorous. As this man is the emblem, by general consent, of those who shall perish in the last day, may we not ask, without offense, Where does the doctrine of absolute reprobation or preterition appear in his case? If Christ had never died for him, or if he had applied for the garment, and was refused, might he not well have alleged this in behalf of his soul? - and would not the just God have listened to it? But there is not the smallest excuse for him: Christ died, the sacrifice was offered, for him; the ministers of the Gospel invited him; the Holy Spirit strove with him; he might have been saved, but he was not: and the fault lies so absolutely at his own door that the just God is vindicated in his conduct, while he sends him to hell, not for the lack of what he could not get, but for the lack of what he might have had, but either neglected or refused it.
Then said the king to the servants - To the ministering angels, executors of the Divine will.
Cast him into outer darkness - The Jewish marriages were performed in the night season, and the hall where the feast was made was superbly illuminated; the outer darkness means, therefore, the darkness on the outside of this festal hall; rendered still more gloomy to the person who was suddenly thrust out into it from such a profusion of light. See all this largely treated of on Matthew 8:12 (note).
Many are called, etc. - This verse is wanting in one of Colbert‘s MSS., marked 33 in Griesbach. See the note on Matthew 20:16. Many are called by the preaching of the Gospel into the outward communion of the Church of Christ; but few, comparatively, are chosen to dwell with God in glory, because they do not come to the master of the feast for a marriage garment - for that holiness without which none can see the Lord. This is an allusion to the Roman custom of raising their militia; all were mustered, but only those were chosen to serve, who were found proper. See the note on Matthew 20:16. Reader! examine thy soul, and make sure work for eternity!
In his talk - Εν λογῳ , by discourse: intending to ask him subtle and ensnaring questions; his answers to which might involve him either with the Roman government, or with the great Sanhedrin.
The Herodians - For an account of this sect, see the note on Matthew 16:1. The preceding parable had covered the Pharisees with confusion: when it was ended they went out, not to humble themselves before God, and deprecate the judgments with which they were threatened; but to plot afresh the destruction of their teacher. The depth of their malice appears,
1.In their mode of attack. They had often questioned our Lord on matters concerning religion; and his answers only served to increase his reputation, and their confusion. They now shift their ground, and question him concerning state affairs, and the question is such as must be answered; and yet the answer, to all human appearance, can be none other than what may be construed into a crime against the people, or against the Roman government.
2.Their profound malice appears farther in the choice of their companions in this business, viz. the Herodians. Herod was at this very time at Jerusalem, whither he had come to hold the passover. Jesus, being of Nazareth, which was in Herod‘s jurisdiction, was considered as his subject. Herod himself was extremely attached to the Roman emperor, and made a public profession of it: all these considerations engaged the Pharisees to unite the Herodians, who, as the Syriac intimates, were the domestics of Herod, in this infernal plot.
I have never known the sentiment in this proverb to fail; and it was notoriously exemplified in the present instance. Flatterers, though they speak the truth, ever carry about with them a base or malicious soul.
4.Their malice appears still farther in the question they propose. Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not? - Matthew 22:17.
The constitution of the Jewish republic, the expectations which they had of future glory and excellence, and the diversity of opinions which divided the Jews on this subject, rendered an answer to this question extremely difficult: -
1.In the presence of the people, who professed to have no other king but God, and looked on their independence as an essential point of their religion.
2.In the presence of the Pharisees, who were ready to stir up the people against him, if his decision could be at all construed to be contrary to their prejudices, or to their religious rights.
5.The answer was difficult, when it is considered that multitudes of the people had begun now to receive Jesus as the promised Messiah, who was to be the deliverer of their nation from spiritual and temporal oppression, and therefore had lately sung to him the Hosanna Rabba: see Matthew 21:9. If then he should decide the question in Caesar‘s favor, what idea must the people have of him, either as zealous for the law, or as the expected Messiah? If against Caesar, he is ruined. Who that loved Jesus, and was not convinced of his sovereign wisdom, could help trembling for him in these circumstances?
Jesus opposes the depth of his wisdom to the depth of their malice, and manifests it: -
1.By unmasking them, and showing that he knew the very secrets of their hearts. Ye Hypocrites! why tempt ye me? i.e. why do ye try me thus? This must cover them with confusion, when they saw their motives thus discovered; and tend much to lessen their influence in the sight of the people, when it was manifest that they acted not through a desire to receive information, by which to regulate their conduct, but merely to ensnare and ruin him.
2.Christ shows his profound wisdom in not attempting to discuss the question at large; but settled the business by seizing a maxim that was common among all people, and acknowledged among the Jews, That the prince who causes his image and titles to be stamped on the current coin of a country, is virtually acknowledged thereby as the governor. See Maimon. Gezel. c. v. in Wetstein. When Sultan Mahmoud, king of Maveralnahar, Turquestan, and the Indies, wished to seize on the dominions of Seideh, queen of Persia, who governed in the place of her young son Megededde-vlet, about a.d. 909, he sent an ambassador to her with the following order: You must acknowledge me for your King, cause the kootbah to be read, i.e. pray for me in all the mosques of the kingdom, and Get Your Money recoined, with the Impression That Is On Mine: thus denoting that she must become absolutely subject to him. See Bibliot. Orient. de Galand. p. 453. Esau Afghan carried his conquest into Bhatty, into the viceroyalty of Bengal, and caused the kootbah to be read, and coin to be struck in the name of the Emperor Akbar. Ayeen Akbery, vol. ii p. 5. See also p. 38, 92, 94, 130, 139, 187.
They brought unto him a penny - A denarius: probably the ordinary capitation tax, though the poll tax in the law, Exodus 30:13, Exodus 30:14, was half a shekel, about twice as much as the denarius. The Roman denarius had the emperor‘s image with a proper legend stamped on one side of it. It was not therefore the sacred shekel which was to be paid for the repairs of the temple which was now demanded, but the regular tribute required by the Roman government.
Whose is this image and superscription? - He knew well enough whose they were; but he showed the excellency of his wisdom, 3dly, in making them answer to their own confusion. They came to ensnare our Lord in his discourse, and now they are ensnared in their own. He who digs a pit for his neighbor ordinarily falls into it himself.
They say unto him, Caesars - The image was the head of the emperor; the superscription, his titles. Julius Caesar was the first who caused his image to be struck on the Roman coin. Tiberius was emperor at this time.
Render therefore unto Caesar - The conclusion is drawn from their own premises. You acknowledge this to be Caesar‘s coin; this coin is current, in your land; the currency of this coin shows the country to be under the Roman government; and your acknowledgment that it is Caesar‘s proves you have submitted. Don‘t therefore be unjust; but render to Caesar the things which you acknowledge to be his; at the same time, be not impious, but render unto God the thing‘s which belong to God.
1.The civil government under which a man lives, and by which he is protected, demands his honor and reverence.
2.The laws which are made for the suppression of evil doers, and the maintenance of good order, which are calculated to promote the benefit of the whole, and the comfort of the individual should be religiously obeyed.
3.The government that charges itself with the support and defense of the whole, should have its unavoidable expenses, however great, repaid by the people, in whose behalf they are incurred; therefore we should pay tribute.
But remember, if Caesar should intrude into the things of God, coin a new creed, or broach a new Gospel, and affect to rule the conscience, while he rules the state, in these things Caesar is not to be obeyed; he is taking the things of God, and he must not get them. Give not therefore God‘s things to Caesar, and give not Caesar‘s things to God. That which belongs to the commonwealth should, on no account whatever, be devoted to religious uses; and let no man think he has pleased God, by giving that to charitable or sacred uses which he has purloined from the state. The tribute of half a shekel, which the law, (Exodus 30:13, Exodus 30:14), required every person above twenty years of age to pay to the temple, was, after the destruction of the temple, in the time of Vespasian, paid into the emperor‘s exchequer. This sum, Melancthon supposes, amounted annually to Three Tons Of Gold.
When they had heard these words, they marvelled - And well they might - never man spake like this man. By this decision, Caesar is satisfied - he gets his own to the uttermost farthing. God is glorified - his honor is in every respect secured. And the People are edified - one of the most difficult questions that could possibly come before them is answered in such a way as to relieve their consciences, and direct their conduct. See L‘Evangile Medite, and see my discourse entitled, The Rights of God and Caesar.
The same day - Malice is ever active; let it be defeated ever so often, it returns to the charge. Jesus and his Gospel give no quarter to vice; the vicious will give no quarter to him or it.
The Sadducees - For an account of these see on Matthew 16:1 (note).
Raise up seed unto his brother - This law is mentioned Deuteronomy 25:5. The meaning of the expression is, that the children produced by this marriage should be reckoned in the genealogy of the deceased brother, and enjoy his estates. The word seed should be always translated children or posterity. There is a law precisely similar to this among the Hindoos.
Seven brethren - It is very likely that the Sadducees increased the number, merely to make the question the more difficult.
Whose wife shall she be of the seven? - The rabbins have said, That if a woman have two husbands in this world, she shall have the first only restored to her in the world to come. Sohar. Genes. fol. 24. The question put by these bad men is well suited to the mouth of a libertine. Those who live without God in the world have no other god than the world; and those who have not that happiness which comes from the enjoyment of God have no other pleasure than that which comes from the gratification of sensual appetites. The stream cannot rise higher than the spring: these men, and their younger brethren, atheists, deists, and libertines of all sorts, can form no idea of heaven as a place of blessedness, unless they can hope to find in it the gratification of their sensual desires. On this very ground Mohammed built his paradise.
Ye do err - Or, Ye are deceived - by your impure passions: not knowing the scriptures, which assert the resurrection: - nor the miraculous power of God ( την δυναμιν του Θεου ) by which it is to be effected. In Avoda Sara, fol. 18, Sanhedrin, fol. 90, it is said: “These are they which shall have no part in the world to come: Those who say, the Lord did not come from heaven; and those who say, the resurrection cannot be proved out of the law.”
Have ye not read - This quotation is taken from Exodus 3:6, Exodus 3:16; and as the five books of Moses were the only part of Scripture which the Sadducees acknowledged as Divine, our Lord, by confuting them from those books, proved the second part of his assertion, “Ye are ignorant of those very scriptures which ye profess to hold sacred.”
I am the God of Abraham - Let it be observed, that Abraham was dead upwards of 300 years before these words were spoken to Moses: yet still God calls himself the God of Abraham, etc. Now Christ properly observes that God is not the God of the dead, (that word being equal, in the sense of the Sadducees, to an eternal annihilation), but of the living; it therefore follows that, if he be the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, these are not dead, but alive; alive with God, though they had ceased, for some hundreds of years, to exist among mortals. We may see, from this, that our Lord combats and confutes another opinion of the Sadducees, viz. that there is neither angel nor spirit; by showing that the soul is not only immortal, but lives with God, even while the body is detained in the dust of the earth, which body is afterwards to be raised to life, and united with its soul by the miraculous power of God, of which power they showed themselves to be ignorant when they denied the possibility of a resurrection.
The multitude were astonished at his doctrine - God uses the infidelity of some for the edification of others. Had no false doctrine been broached in the world, we had not seen the full evidence of the true teaching. The opposition of deists and infidels has only served to raise up men in behalf of the truth of God, who not only have refuted them, but shown, at the same time, that the sacred testimonies are infinitely amiable in themselves, and worthy of all acceptation. Truth always gains by being opposed.
They were gathered together - Επι το αυτο - they came together with one accord, or, for the same purpose; i.e. of ensnaring him in his discourse, as the Sadducees had done, Matthew 22:23. The Codex Bezae and several of the Itala have επ ‘ αυτον , against him. Camen togidre into oon. - Old MS. Eng, Bib.
A lawyer - Νομικος , a teacher of the law. What is called lawyer, in the common translation, conveys a wrong idea to most readers: my old MS. renders the word in the same way I have done. These teachers of the law were the same as the scribes, or what Dr. Wotton calls letter-men, whom he supposes to be the same as the Karaites, a sect of the Jews who rejected all the traditions of the elders, and admitted nothing but the written word. See Wotton‘s Mishna, vol. i. p. 78. These are allowed to have kept more closely to the spiritual meaning of the law and prophets than the Pharisees did; and hence the question proposed by the lawyer, (Mark, Mark 12:28, calls him one of the scribes), or Karaite, was of a more spiritual or refined nature than any of the preceding.
Which is the great commandment - We see here three kinds of enemies and false accusers of Christ and his disciples; and three sorts of accusations brought against them.
1.The Herodians, or politicians and courtiers, who form their questions and accusations on the rights of the prince, and matters of state, Matthew 22:16.
2.The Sadducees, or libertines, who found theirs upon matters of religion, and articles of faith, which they did not credit, Matthew 22:23.
3.The Pharisees, lawyers, scribes, or Karaites, hypocritical pretenders to devotion, who found theirs on that vital and practical godliness (the love of God and man) of which they wished themselves to be thought the sole proprietors, Matthew 22:36.
Thou shalt love the Lord - This is a subject of the greatest importance, and should be well understood, as our Lord shows that the whole of true religion is comprised in thus loving God and our neighbor.
1.He loves God with all his heart, who loves nothing in comparison of him, and nothing but in reference to him: - who is ready to give up, do, or suffer any thing in order to please and glorify him: - who has in his heart neither love nor hatred, hope nor fear, inclination, nor aversion, desire, nor delight, but as they relate to God, and are regulated by him.
2.He loves God with all his soul, or rather, εν ολη τη ψυχη , with all his life, who is ready to give up life for his sake - to endure all sorts of torments, and to be deprived of all kinds of comforts, rather than dishonor God: - who employs life with all its comforts, and conveniences, to glorify God in, by, and through all: - to whom life and death are nothing, but as they come from and lead to God, From this Divine principle sprang the blood of the martyrs, which became the seed of the Church. They overcame through the blood of the Lamb, and loved not their lives unto the death. See Revelation 12:11.
4.He loves God with all his mind (intellect - διανοια ) who applies himself only to know God, and his holy will: - who receives with submission, gratitude, and pleasure, the sacred truths which God has revealed to man: - who studies no art nor science but as far as it is necessary for the service of God, and uses it at all times to promote his glory - who forms no projects nor designs but in reference to God and the interests of mankind: - who banishes from his understanding and memory every useless, foolish, and dangerous thought, together with every idea which has any tendency to defile his soul, or turn it for a moment from the center of eternal repose. In a word, he who sees God in all things - thinks of him at all times - having his mind continually fixed upon God, acknowledging him in all his ways - who begins, continues, and ends all his thoughts, words, and works, to the glory of his name: - this is the person who loves God with all his heart, life, strength, and intellect. He is crucified to the world, and the world to him: he lives, yet not he, but Christ lives in him. He beholds as in a glass the glory of the Lord, and is changed into the same image from glory to glory. Simply and constantly looking unto Jesus, the author and perfecter of his faith, he receives continual supplies of enlightening and sanctifying grace, and is thus fitted for every good word and work. O glorious state! far, far, beyond this description! which comprises an ineffable communion between the ever-blessed Trinity and the soul of man!
This is the first and great commandment - It is so,
1.In its antiquity, being as old as the world, and engraven originally on our very nature.
2.In dignity; as directly and immediately proceeding front and referring to God.
10.In duration; being ever to be continued on earth, and never to be discontinued in heaven.
Thou shalt love thy neighbor - The love of our neighbor springs from the love of God as its source; is found in the love of God as its principle, pattern, and end; and the love of God is found in the love of our neighbor, as its effect, representation, and infallible mark. This love of our neighbor is a love of equity, charity, succor, and benevolence. We owe to our neighbor what we have a right to expect from him - “Do unto all men as ye would they should do unto you,” is a positive command of our blessed Savior. By this rule, therefore, we should speak, think, and write, concerning every soul of man: - put the best construction upon all the words and actions of our neighbor that they can possibly bear. By this rule we are taught to bear with, love, and forgive him; to rejoice in his felicity, mourn in his adversity, desire and delight in his prosperity, and promote it to the utmost of our power: instruct his ignorance, help him in his weakness, and risk even our life for his sake, and for the public good. In a word, we must do every thing in our power, through all the possible varieties of circumstances, for our neighbors, which we would wish them to do for us, were our situations reversed.
On these two - hang all the law and the prophets - They are like the first and last links of a chain, all the intermediate ones depend on them. True religion begins and ends in love to God and man. These are the two grand links that unite God to man, man to his fellows, and men again to God.
While the Pharisees were gathered together - Jesus asks a question in his turn, utterly to confound them, and to show the people that the source of all the captious questions of his opponents was their ignorance of the prophecies relative to the Messiah.
What think ye of Christ? - Or, What are your thoughts concerning The Christ - the Messiah; for to this title the emphatic article should always be added.
Whose son is he? - From what family is he to spring?
They say unto him, The son of David - This was a thing well known among the Jews, and universally acknowledged, see John 7:42; and is a most powerful proof against them that the Messiah is come. Their families are now so perfectly confounded that they cannot trace back any of their genealogies with any degree of certainty: nor have they been capable of ascertaining the different families of their tribes for more than sixteen hundred years. Why, then, should the spirit of prophecy assert so often, and in such express terms, that Jesus was to come from the family of David; if he should only make his appearance when the public registers were all demolished, and it would be impossible to ascertain the family? Is it not evident that God designed that the Messiah should come at a time when the public genealogies might be inspected, to prove that it was he who was prophesied of, and that no other was to be expected? The evangelists, Matthew and Luke, were so fully convinced of the conclusiveness of this proof that they had recourse to the public registers; and thus proved to the Jews, from their own records, that Jesus was born of the family mentioned by the prophets. Nor do we find that a scribe, Pharisee, or any other, ever attempted to invalidate this proof, though it would have essentially subserved their cause, could they have done it. But as this has not been done, we may fairly conclude it was impossible to do it.
How then doth David in spirit (or by the Spirit - by the inspiration of the Spirit of God) call him Lord? saying,
The Lord (יהוה (Yeve) or (Jehovah)) said unto my Lord, אדניע (Adni) or (Adonai), my prop, stay, master, support), Sit thou on my right hand - Take the place of the greatest eminence and authority. Till I make thine enemies thy footstool - till I subdue both Jews and Gentiles under thee, and cause them to acknowledge thee as their sovereign and Lord. This quotation is taken from Psalm 110:1; and, from it, these two points are clear:
1.That David wrote it by the inspiration of God; and
2.That it is a prophetic declaration of the Messiah.
How is he his son? - As the Jews did not attempt to deny the conclusion of our Lord‘s question, which was, the Messiah is not only the son of David according to the flesh, but he is the Lord of David according to his Divine nature, then it is evident they could not. Indeed, there was no other way of invalidating the argument, but by denying that the prophecy in question related to Christ: but it seems the prophecy was so fully and so generally understood to belong to the Messiah that they did not attempt to do this; for it is immediately added, No man was able to answer him a word - they were completely nonplussed and confounded.
Neither durst any - ask him any more questions - “Thus,” says Dr. Wotton, “our Lord put the four great sects of the Jews to silence, in one day, successively. The Herodians and Pharisees wanted to know whether they might lawfully pay tribute to Caesar or not. The Sadducees were inquisitive to know whose wife the woman should be of the seven brethren, in the resurrection, who had her to wife. Then comes the scribe, (or karaite), who owned no authority beyond or besides the written law, and asked which was the great commandment in the law. This lawyer deserves to be mentioned here, because he not only acquiesced in, but commended, what our Lord had said in answer to his question.” Wotton‘s Miscellaneous Discourses, vol. i. p. 78.
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