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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 9

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Deuteronomy 9:0


Israel's Rebellion ReviewedThe Temptation to Self-Righteousness (Deuteronomy 9:1-11)The People's DisobedienceYahweh, not Israel, Wins the Victory
Deuteronomy 9:1-12Deuteronomy 9:1-3Deuteronomy 9:1-3Deuteronomy 9:1-6
Deuteronomy 9:4-5Deuteronomy 9:4-6
Deuteronomy 9:6-7 Israel's Conduct at Horeb; Moses Intercedes
Deuteronomy 9:7-11Deuteronomy 9:7-14
Deuteronomy 9:8-14
Deuteronomy 9:12
Deuteronomy 9:13-24 Deuteronomy 9:13-14
Deuteronomy 9:15-21Deuteronomy 9:15-21Deuteronomy 9:15-21
Israel Sins Again. A Prayer of Moses
Deuteronomy 9:22-24Deuteronomy 9:22-24Deuteronomy 9:22-24
Deuteronomy 9:25-29Deuteronomy 9:25-29Deuteronomy 9:25-29Deuteronomy 9:25-29

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-6

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 9:1-6 1”Hear, O Israel! You are crossing over the Jordan today to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than you, great cities fortified to heaven, 2a people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim, whom you know and of whom you have heard it said,' Who can stand before the sons of Anak?' 3Know therefore today that it is the LORD your God who is crossing over before you as a consuming fire. He will destroy them and He will subdue them before you, so that you may drive them out and destroy them quickly, just as the LORD has spoken to you. 4Do not say in your heart when the LORD your God has driven them out before you, 'Because of my righteousness the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,' but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is dispossessing them before you. 5It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going to possess their land, but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God is driving them out before you, in order to confirm the oath which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 6Know, then, it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stubborn people.”

Deuteronomy 9:1 “Hear” This is the Hebrew term shema (BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal IMPERATIVE, cf. Deuteronomy 4:1; Deuteronomy 5:1; Deuteronomy 6:3, Deuteronomy 6:4; Deuteronomy 9:1; Deuteronomy 20:3; Deuteronomy 27:9), which means “to hear so as to do.” See note at Deuteronomy 4:1.

“O Israel” See Special Topic: Israel (the name).

“nations greater and mightier than you” This is a repeated theme (see note at Deuteronomy 1:28). The theological point (i.e., YHWH's sovereign choice and His promise to the Patriarchs) is in Deuteronomy 7:6-9. He is trustworthy and true. His character is magnified in Israel's stubbornness and stiffneckedness (cf. Deuteronomy 9:6, Deuteronomy 9:7, Deuteronomy 9:13, Deuteronomy 9:24, Deuteronomy 9:27; Deuteronomy 10:16; Deuteronomy 31:27).

Deuteronomy 9:2 “the Anakim. . .sons of Anak” Etymologically this term means “long neck” and, therefore, refers to the giants. In Deuteronomy 2:10-11 they are linked to the Rephaim and in Numbers 13:33 they are linked to the Nephilim. See Special Topic: Terms Used for Tall/Powerful Warriors or People Groups (Giants).

“know” See full note at Deuteronomy 4:35.

Deuteronomy 9:3 “Know” This VERB (BDB 393, KB 390, Qal PERFECT) is used often and in several senses. See Special Topic: Know.

“a consuming fire” This is BDB 77 plus BDB 37. This metaphor is describing the judgment of God on the people of the land because of their wickedness (cf. v. Deuteronomy 9:4-5; Genesis 15:16). See note at Deuteronomy 4:24. For a good brief discussion of the imagery used to describe God see The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, pp.332-336.

“He will destroy them and He will subdue them before you” These two VERBS of conquest are parallel and denote YHWH's actions on Israel's behalf:

1. “destroy” - BDB 1029, KB 1552, Hiphil IMPERFECT

2. “subdue” - BDB 488, KB 484, Hiphil IMPERFECT

Also note that Israel must act in faith and attack:

1. “you may drive them out” - BDB 439, KB 441, Hiphil PERFECT

2. “destroy them quickly” - BDB 1, KB 2, Hiphil PERFECT plus the ADVERB (BDB 555 II)

Notice the theological and covenantal balance between the promised action of the sovereign YHWH and the mandated faithful response of the Israeli army and leaders. Both are crucial!

It is also to be noted that YHWH accomplished His task, but Israel did not complete the task of totally removing the indigenous inhabitants (cf. Judges 1-2). Israel should have acted quickly (cf. Deuteronomy 7:22), but she did not!

Deuteronomy 9:4-6 “Do not say in your heart when the LORD your God has driven them out before you, 'Because of my righteousness'“ This is similar to Deuteronomy 8:11-20. God is showing the people again that He is acting, not because they are good, but because of (1) the wickedness of the people in the land (cf. Genesis 15:12-21; Leviticus 18:24-25; Leviticus 20:13-14) and (2) His promise to their Patriarchs beginning in Genesis 12:1-3. He wants them to remember that He is in full control.

The initial VERB “say” (BDB 55, KB 65) is a Qal IMPERFECT, used in a JUSSIVE sense. The fallen heart of humanity is still ever present and spiritually dangerous.

The second VERB “has driven” (BDB 213, KB 239, Qal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT) shows YHWH's active involvement in the Conquest (cf. Deuteronomy 6:19; Joshua 23:5).


Deuteronomy 9:5 “It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart” These two NOUNS are parallel in this context:

1. “righteousness” - BDB 842, cf. Deuteronomy 6:25; Deuteronomy 9:4, Deuteronomy 9:5, Deuteronomy 9:6; Deuteronomy 24:13; Deuteronomy 33:21, see Special Topic: Righteousness

2. “uprightness” - BDB 449, means integrity or moral lifestyle, cf. 1 Chronicles 29:17; Psalms 119:7

Israel is not being given the land Canaan because of her godliness, but because of the Canaanite's ungodliness (cf. Deuteronomy 9:4; Genesis 15:12-21; Leviticus 18:24-28, see note at Deuteronomy 3:6).

“to confirm the oath the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” Notice the VERBS:

1. “to confirm the oath” - BDB 877, KB 1086, Hiphil INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT

2. “the LORD swore” - BDB 989, KB 1396, Niphal PERFECT


“righteousness” See Special Topic: Righteousness.

Deuteronomy 9:6, Deuteronomy 9:13 “you are a stubborn people” This was originally an agricultural phrase referring to unruly oxen. Literally this means “hard of neck” or “stiff-necked” (BDB 904 CONSTRUCT BDB 791, cf. Deuteronomy 9:6, Deuteronomy 9:7, Deuteronomy 9:13, Deuteronomy 9:24, Deuteronomy 9:27; Deuteronomy 10:16; Deuteronomy 31:27; Exodus 32:9; Exodus 33:3, Exodus 33:5; Exodus 34:9).

Verses 7-21

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 9:7-21 7 “Remember, do not forget how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness; from the day that you left the land of Egypt until you arrived at this place, you have been rebellious against the LORD. 8Even at Horeb you provoked the LORD to wrath, and the LORD was so angry with you that He would have destroyed you. 9When I went up to the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant which the LORD had made with you, then I remained on the mountain forty days and nights; I neither ate bread nor drank water. 10And the LORD gave me the two tablets of stone written by the finger of God; and on them were all the words which the LORD had spoken with you at the mountain from the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly. 11And it came about at the end of forty days and nights that the LORD gave me the two tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant. 12Then the LORD said to me, 'Arise, go down from here quickly, for your people whom you brought out of Egypt have acted corruptly. They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them; they have made a molten image for themselves.' 13The LORD spoke further to me, saying, 'I have seen this people, and indeed, it is a stubborn people. 14Let Me alone, that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven; and I will make of you a nation mightier and greater than they.' 15So I turned and came down from the mountain while the mountain was burning with fire, and the two tablets of the covenant were in my two hands. 16And I saw that you had indeed sinned against the LORD your God. You had made for yourselves a molten calf; you had turned aside quickly from the way which the LORD had commanded you. 17And I took hold of the two tablets and threw them from my hands, and smashed them before your eyes. 18And I fell down before the LORD, as at the first, forty days and nights; I neither ate bread nor drank water, because of all your sin which you had committed in doing what was evil in the sight of the LORD to provoke Him to anger. 19For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure with which the LORD was wrathful against you in order to destroy you, but the LORD listened to me that time also. 20And the LORD was angry enough with Aaron to destroy him; so I also prayed for Aaron at the same time. 21And I took your sinful thing, the calf which you had made, and burned it with fire and crushed it, grinding it very small until it was as fine as dust; and I threw its dust into the brook that came down from the mountain.”

Deuteronomy 9:7 “Remember, do not forget” These two initial VERBS (BDB 269, KB 269, Qal IMPERATIVES, cf. Deuteronomy 5:15; Deuteronomy 7:18[twice]; Deuteronomy 8:2; Deuteronomy 9:7, Deuteronomy 9:27; Deuteronomy 15:15; Deuteronomy 16:3, Deuteronomy 16:12; Deuteronomy 24:9, Deuteronomy 24:18, Deuteronomy 24:22; Deuteronomy 25:17; Deuteronomy 32:7 and BDB 1013, KB 1489, Qal IMPERFECT, functioning as a JUSSIVE, cf. Deuteronomy 4:9, Deuteronomy 4:23; Deuteronomy 6:12; Deuteronomy 8:11, Deuteronomy 8:14, Deuteronomy 8:19[twice]; Deuteronomy 9:7) are to help Israel remember (see note at Deuteronomy 7:18) and not repeat her lack of faith in YHWH, His promises and His power as they did on several occasions during the exodus and wilderness wandering period.

Moses mentions their act of idolatry and rebellion at the foot of Mt. Horeb in Deuteronomy 9:8, where Aaron fashioned a golden calf at the insistence of the people!

Deuteronomy 9:7-8 “how you provoked the LORD” See Exodus 16:0; Exodus 32:0; and Numbers 13-14; Numbers 16:21, Numbers 16:25 as some examples.

Deuteronomy 9:7-22 These verses refer to the actions of Israel while Moses was on Mt. Horeb/Sinai receiving the Law (cf. Exodus 32:0).

Deuteronomy 9:9 “the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant which the LORD had made with you” Obviously the phrase “tablets of stone, and the tablets of the covenant” are parallel. See Special Topic: COVENANT at Deuteronomy 4:13. These were YHWH's words, not Moses'. This is revelation, not human opinion or discovery.

Deuteronomy 9:9, Deuteronomy 9:11, Deuteronomy 9:18 “forty days” This number is often symbolic of a long, indefinite period of time, longer than a lunar cycle (i.e., 28 days) but less than a seasonal change. The time from leaving Mt. Horeb/Sinai to entering Canaan was thirty eight years.

Deuteronomy 9:9, Deuteronomy 9:18 “I neither ate bread nor drank water” This refers to two separate 40 day fasts meaning either (1) a miraculous preservation (cf. Exodus 24:18; Exodus 34:28) or (2) a hyperbolic idiom for a limited fast (no food, but water).

Deuteronomy 9:10 “the two tablets of stone” Because of Hittite Suzerain Treaties as a possible historical background, this may refer to two complete copies of the Law. See introduction to the book, VII.

“written by the finger of God” This is an idiom for the divine origin of the Ten Words and their explanations (cf. Exodus 31:18; Exodus 32:15-16; Deuteronomy 4:13). See Special Topic: God Described as a Human (Anthropomorphic Language).

“the LORD had spoken with you at the mountain from the midst of the fire” This is a recurrent theme (cf. Deuteronomy 4:12, Deuteronomy 4:15, Deuteronomy 4:33, Deuteronomy 4:36; Deuteronomy 5:5, Deuteronomy 5:22, Deuteronomy 5:24, Deuteronomy 5:26; Deuteronomy 9:10; Deuteronomy 10:4). The phrase emphasizes God's acts and the content of personal covenant revelation at Mt. Horeb/Sinai.

Deuteronomy 9:12-14 As Moses records his dialogue with God on Mt. Horeb/Sinai YHWH uses several commands:

1. “arise,” Deuteronomy 9:12 - BDB 877, KB 1086, Qal IMPERATIVE

2. “go down,” Deuteronomy 9:12 - BDB 432, KB 434, Qal IMPERATIVE

3. “let Me alone,” Deuteronomy 9:14 - BDB 951, KB 1276, Hiphil IMPERATIVE

4. “I may destroy them,” Deuteronomy 9:14 - BDB 1029, KB 1552, Hiphil IMPERFECT used in a COHORTATIVE sense

5. “blot out their name,” Deuteronomy 9:14 - BDB 562, KB 567, Qal IMPERFECT used in a COHORTATIVE sense

“for your people whom you brought out of Egypt” This VERB (BDB 422, KB 425, Hiphil PERFECT) is used many times of YHWH, but only here of Moses.

“molten image” This was not idolatry, but a physical representation of YHWH. This was a violation of the second commandment. They wanted a god they could see and touch like the peoples of Egypt and Canaan had.

Deuteronomy 9:14 Is this an example of the wrath of God or is it a test of Moses' leadership (cf. Deuteronomy 9:25ff, Exodus 32:30-35)?

“blot out their name from under heaven” This is a Hebrew idiom (cf. Deuteronomy 25:5; Psalms 41:5) for the complete extermination of Israel!

Deuteronomy 9:15 “mountain was burning with fire” Burning fire or bright light was a symbol of God's presence (cf. Deuteronomy 1:32-33; Isaiah 66:15). See Special Topic: FIRE.

Deuteronomy 9:16 “You had made for yourselves a molten calf” This same VERB (BDB 793 I, KB 899, Qal PERFECT) is used in Deuteronomy 9:12 and 21. Here this image is called a (1)”molten calf” (BDB 722, cf. Exodus 32:4, Exodus 32:8) (2) in Deuteronomy 9:21, “the calf,” but (3) in Deuteronomy 9:12 a “molten image” (cf. Exodus 34:17; Leviticus 19:4).

Deuteronomy 9:17 “smashed them before your eyes” The very day the covenant was written by God it was broken (both literally and figuratively).

Deuteronomy 9:19 “the LORD listened to me” See Exodus 34:0. Notice the source of Moses' fear (BDB 388, KB 386, Qal PERFECT, cf. Deuteronomy 28:60):

1. YHWH's anger - BDB 60, cf. Exodus 32:12

2. YHWH's hot displeasure - BDB 404, cf. Deuteronomy 29:23

3. YHWH's wrath - BDB 893, KB 1124, Qal PERFECT, cf. Deuteronomy 1:34; Leviticus 10:6; Numbers 16:22

4. in order to destroy you - BDB 1029, KB 1552, Hiphil INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT, cf. Deuteronomy 6:15; Deuteronomy 9:20

Numbers 1:0 and 2 may function as a hendiadys (cf. TEV, NET Bible).

Deuteronomy 9:20 “for Aaron” Moses praying for Aaron is not recorded in Exodus 32:0.

Deuteronomy 9:21 See Exodus 32:20. Notice how many VERBS are used to describe what Moses did to the golden calf, the sinful thing:

1. “burned it,” BDB 926, KB 1358, Qal IMPERFECT

2. “crushed it,” BDB 510, KB 507, Qal IMPERFECT, cf. 2 Kings 18:4; Micah 1:7

3. “grinding it very small,” BDB 377, KB 374, Qal INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE

4. “it was as fine as dust,” BDB 200, KB 229, Qal PERFECT

5. “threw its dust into the brook,” BDB 1020, KB 1527, Hiphil IMPERFECT

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 9:22-24 22 “Again at Taberah and at Massah and at Kibroth-hattaavah you provoked the LORD to wrath. 23And when the LORD sent you from Kadesh-barnea, saying, 'Go up and possess the land which I have given you,' then you rebelled against the command of the LORD your God; you neither believed Him nor listened to His voice. 24You have been rebellious against the LORD from the day I knew you.”

Deuteronomy 9:22 “Taberah” This place name comes from a word play on the VERB “to burn” (BDB 129). This was the geographical location where YHWH answered their constant complaining with a judgment of fire (cf. Numbers 11:1-3, Numbers 11:34-35). It was about a three day journey north of Mt. Horeb/Sinai.

“Massah” This was another location of conflict between YHWH and Israel during the exodus (cf. Exodus 17:7). It is usually linked to Meribah (cf. Deuteronomy 33:8), but not always (cf. Deuteronomy 6:16; Deuteronomy 9:2). Together they mean “testing (BDB 650 III, cf. Deuteronomy 6:16; Deuteronomy 9:22; Deuteronomy 33:8; Exodus 17:7; Psalms 95:8) and strife.”

“Kibroth - Hattaavah” The name means “graves of lust” (BDB 869, cf. Numbers 11:31-35). In Numbers 11:0 there is no movement recorded between Taberah and Kibroth-Hattaavah, but here in Deuteronomy the two sites are separate.

Deuteronomy 9:23 “Go up and possess this land” These are both Qal IMPERATIVES and reflect YHWH's direct speech through Moses to Israel:

1. “go up” - BDB 748, KB 828

2. “possess” - BDB 439, KB 441

Notice again YHWH's command for Israel to act on her belief in His sovereignty and promises. But instead of faith Israel demonstrated unbelief:

1. “you rebelled against the command” - BDB 598, KB 632 , Hiphil IMPERFECT, cf. Numbers 20:24; Numbers 27:14; Deuteronomy 1:26, Deuteronomy 1:43; Deuteronomy 9:23; Psalms 107:11

2. “you neither believed Him” - BDB 52, KB 63, Hiphil PERFECT (See Special Topic: Believe, Trust, Faith, and Faithfulness in the OT)

3. “nor listened to His voice” - BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal PERFECT (these Qal PERFECTS reflect a settled condition). This is exactly opposite of covenant obedience and responsibility.

“you rebelled” See note at Deuteronomy 1:26.

Verses 25-29

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 9:25-29 25”So I fell down before the LORD the forty days and nights, which I did because the LORD had said He would destroy you. 26I prayed to the LORD, and said, 'O Lord God, do not destroy Your people, even Your inheritance, whom You have redeemed through Your greatness, whom You have brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 27'Remember Your servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; do not look at the stubbornness of this people or at their wickedness or their sin. 28Otherwise the land from which You brought us may say, “Because the LORD was not able to bring them into the land which He had promised them and because He hated them He has brought them out to slay them in the wilderness.” 29Yet they are Your people, even Your inheritance, whom You have brought out by Your great power and Your outstretched arm.'“

Deuteronomy 9:25 Moses' intercessory prayer uses two VERBS:

1. “I fell down” - BDB 656, KB 709

a. Hithpael IMPERFECT, Deuteronomy 9:25

b. Hithpael PERFECT, Deuteronomy 9:25

2. “I prayed” - Deuteronomy 9:26 - BDB 813, KB 933, Hithpael IMPERFECT

Deuteronomy 9:26-29 Verses Deuteronomy 9:26-29 show three reasons Moses gave to God in answer to His question, “Why should I spare Israel?”:

1. His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (cf. Exodus 32:13)

2. Canaan will misunderstand YHWH's character

3. Canaan will not understand YHWH's judgment on Israel

The paragraph contains three prayer request VERBS:

1. “do not destroy,” Deuteronomy 9:26 - BDB 1007, KB 1469, Hiphil JUSSIVE

2. “remember,” Deuteronomy 9:27 - BDB 269, KB 269, Qal IMPERATIVE

3. “do not look” (i.e., “turn”), Deuteronomy 9:27 - BDB 815, KB 937, Qal JUSSIVE

Moses appeals to YHWH's character and eternal redemptive plan for all people as the basis for not destroying His disobedient covenant people. More is at stake than just one people group! See Special Topic: YHWH's ETERNAL REDEMPTIVE PLAN.

Deuteronomy 9:26 Notice how Moses' prayer reminds YHWH of His covenant relationship:

1. “Lord God” (literally, “adon YHWH,” cf. Deuteronomy 3:24. See Special Topic: Names for Deity.

2. “Thy people” - covenant title, cf. Deuteronomy 9:29

3. “Thine inheritance” - covenant gift, cf. Deuteronomy 9:29

4. “Thou has redeemed - BDB 804, KB 911, Qal PERFECT, the covenant grace act (see Special Topic: RANSOM/REDEEM). YHWH delivered them from slavery to family (cf. Deuteronomy 7:8; Deuteronomy 9:26; Deuteronomy 13:5)

5. “Thou hast brought out of Egypt” - BDB 422, KB 425, Hiphil PERFECT, covenant promise to Abraham (cf. Deuteronomy 9:29; Genesis 15:16-21)

God acts because of who He is! He follows His redemptive plan! The great hope of all mankind is the unchanging, gracious, merciful, loving character of YHWH (e.g., Exodus 34:6; Malachi 3:6). See notes at Deuteronomy 9:1 and 10:17.

“with a mighty hand” This phrase and “outstretched arm” of Deuteronomy 9:29 have both been found in Egyptian texts referring to the Egyptian king. Moses chose phrases that Israel had heard before in relationship to Pharaoh. YHWH was their true king!

Deuteronomy 9:27 Notice the character of Israel:

1. “the stubbornness of this people” - BDB 904, cf. Deuteronomy 9:6, Deuteronomy 9:7, Deuteronomy 9:13, Deuteronomy 9:24, Deuteronomy 9:27

2. “their wickedness” - BDB 957, cf. Jeremiah 14:20; Ezekiel 3:19; Ezekiel 33:12

3. “their sin” - BDB 308, cf. Exodus 32:30; Deuteronomy 9:18; Psalms 32:5; Psalms 51:5; Proverbs 5:22; Proverbs 13:6; Proverbs 14:34; Proverbs 21:4; Proverbs 24:9 (Deuteronomy shares the vocabulary of the sages)

Deuteronomy 9:28 “Otherwise the land from which You brought us may say” God, because of Your reputation and worldwide purpose of redemption, spare Israel. Another phrase used in the same sense is, “for God's namesake” (cf. Isaiah 48:9-11; Ezekiel 20:9, Ezekiel 20:14, Ezekiel 20:22, Ezekiel 20:44; Ezekiel 36:21-23; Daniel 9:17-19).

Deuteronomy 9:29 “Your great power and Your outstretched arm” See full note at Deuteronomy 4:34.


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Why did God choose Israel?

2. Is Deuteronomy 9:14 a true reflection of God's nature? If not, what is it?

3. List and discuss the three reasons Moses gives as to why YHWH should not destroy Israel.

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 9". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/deuteronomy-9.html. 2021.
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