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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
Ezekiel 32

 

 

Verses 1-32

PROPHETIC DIRGES OVER EGYPT'S FALL (Chap. 32)

EXEGETICAL NOTES.—Eze . "In the twelfth year"—in the twelfth year from the carrying away of Jehoiakin: Jerusalem was by this time overthrown, and Amasis was beginning to revolt against Pharaoh-Hophra.

Eze . "Like a young lion and as a whale"—any monster of the waters: here the crocodile of the Nile. As a lion on dry land and a crocodile in the waters, Pharaoh is terrible alike by land and sea.

Eze . "I will spread my net"—the Chaldeans (chap. Eze 29:3-4; Hos 7:12.) "Jehovah spreads His net in the congregation of many nations, and gives it over to them that they may draw it out."—Hengstenberg.

Eze . "Then I will leave thee upon the land"—it will fare no better with thee than with a fish, which must perish miserably because it is taken out of its element.

Eze . "I will fill the valleys with thy height"—"thy hugeness" (Fairbairn). "The multitude of thy forces, on which thou pridest thyself, shall only be a great heap of corpses to fill the valleys up to the sides of the mountains."—Fausset.

Eze . "I will put thee out"—extinguish thy light in the political sky. In great political catastrophes and the endless woe connected with them, the heavenly luminaries appear to be extinguished (Isa 13:10; Amo 8:9-10; Mat 24:29; Rev 6:12).

Eze . "When I shall bring thy destruction among the nations"—"the tidings of thy destruction (breakage) carried by captive and dispersed Egyptians among the nations" (Grotius); or, "When I bring thy ruins among the nations—thy broken people, resembling one great fracture, the ruins of what they had been."—Fairbairn.

Eze . "Then will I make their waters deep"—"to subside into the deep, to sink, or decrease" (Fairbairn). "To settle and grow clear. The Nile fertilises Egypt by its black mud, whence it is called ‘the black.' Ezekiel poetically saw it become a clear-flowing stream in the Messianic times."—Geikie. "Their rivers to run like oil"—their canals flow like oil—emblem of quietness, or sluggish action.

Eze . "This is the lamentation wherewith they shall lament her"—frequently repeated. "This is a prophetical lamentation; yet so shall it come to pass."—Grotius.

Eze . "The daughters of the famous nations"—the glorious nations themselves, some of whom are enumerated in the succeeding verses. They were as virgins, or daughters, once splendid in the bloom of youth, lovely to behold.

Eze . "Whom dost thou pass in beauty?" "Beyond whom art thou lovely?"—Hengstenberg.—"Art thou any fairer than others?"—Geikie. "Go down"—to Sheol, the under-world, where all beauty is speedily marred.

Eze . "Draw her and all her multitudes"—to the shades of the grave, ye powers of the under-world. As if addressing her executioners—drag her forth to death.

Eze . "The strong among the mighty shall speak to him"—with a taunting welcome, as now one of themselves.

Eze . "Asshur is there and all her company—his graves are about him." "The abrupt change of gender is because Ezekiel has in view at one time the kingdom (feminine), at another the monarch. Assyria is placed first in punishment as being first in guilt."—Fausset. "The brightest example of greatness going to destruction."—Hengstenberg.

Eze . "Whose graves are set in the sides of the pit." "In the depths of Sheol."—Geikie. "Deepest in guilt, they occupy the lowest depths."—Fairbairn. "The grave is deep even if, materially taken, it be only a few feet, as a stream is very deep if it be only six feet. The grave is deep enough to cover all glory."—Hengstenberg.

Eze . "There is Elam." "Placed next as having been the auxiliary of Assyria. Its territory lay in Persia. In Abraham's time an independent kingdom (Gen 14:1). Famous for its bowmen (Isa 22:6)."—Fausset.

Eze . "Slain by the sword." The very monotony of the same phraseology so often repeated gives to the dirge an awe-inspiring effect.

Eze . "Meshech, Tubal, and her multitude"—the Moschi and Tibareni on the Pontic Mountains, between the Black and Caspian Seas.

Eze . "With their weapons of war." "The custom, regarded as significant by the prophet, prevailed among them, to bury their fallen warriors with their death-weapons, in which they have their misdeeds with them, so that guilt and punishment are united in the grave."—Hengstenberg. "But their iniquities shall be upon their bones." "Their iniquities shall come upon their very bones."—Geikie. Their swords buried with them bear witness of their violence, and of the retributive cause of their own humiliation.

Eze . "Edom and all her princes." Edom was not only governed by kings, but by subordinate princes or dukes (Gen 37:36). This people had shown a malicious joy in the downfall of Judah. "They shall lie with the uncircumcised." Though Edom was circumcised, being descended from Isaac, he shall lie with the uncircumcised.

Eze . "There be the princes of the north." "Syria, which is still called by the Arabs the north; or the Tyrians, north of Palestine, conquered by Nebuchadnezzar (chaps. 26-28)"—Grotius. "And all the Zidonians"—who shared the fate of Tyre (chap Eze 28:21).

Eze . "Pharaoh shall be comforted." "He sighs, is troubled. Others explain, He comforts himself. But Pharaoh could so much the less derive comfort from the view of the others, as they had been not his foes but his confederates on earth, and their defeat was at the same time his own."—Hengstenberg. Pharaoh's comfort was but a sigh.

Eze . "I have caused my terrors." Pharaoh was a long time terrible, not by his own power, but by the operation of God, who made use of him as His instrument. The terror he had been to others shall be experienced by himself and his people. "He shall be laid in the midst of the uncircumcised." "Used up, Pharaoh is now destroyed by the same power which employed him before for its own ends. He has in the time of the power vouchsafed to him proved himself unclean and uncircumcised, and hence must share the fate of the uncircumcised."—Hengstenberg.

HOMILETICS

THE TERRIBLENESS OF THE DIVINE VENGEANCE

(Eze .)

I. Provoked by the reckless abuse of power (Eze ). Egypt is here represented as a young lion, or enraged crocodile working havoc by land and sea in sheer wantonness and prodigality of strength. The needs and enjoyments, the rights and privileges, of others are utterly disregarded in the reckless and excessive exercise of absolute power. Egypt had oppressed the people of God, and this was not forgotten. It had already measured its strength against the Asiatic forces, and had been checked in its ambitious projects. Its defeat abroad tended to intensify its tyranny at home, until its oppression and viciousness became unbearable. The day of retribution was at hand. It had roused the righteous anger of Heaven, and the fiat had gone forth—"Shall I not visit for these things? saith the Lord; shall not My soul be avenged on such a nation as this?" (Jer 5:9).

II. Seen in the utter ruin of a mighty nation.

1. Its power to harm others shall be crippled (Eze .) In the graphic style of Ezekiel, Egypt is represented as a huge crocodile caught in a net, dragged from the waters, slung out upon the open field, and left stranded in the valley, its vast bulk spreading on the mountain-sides, the land soaked and the torrent-beds filled with the gushing-out of its blood, the birds and beasts of prey gorging themselves on its distended carcass. The great tyrant is now powerless to oppress, and is in the death-grip of the avenger.

2. Its glory is quenched (Eze ). The sun is veiled with clouds and the moon gives no light, the stars and all the shining lights of heaven become black, and darkness is poured over the land. The plague of darkness in a former age (Exo 10:21-23), filling the people with awe while it lasted, was temporary; but the dense gloom that now settled upon the nation meant the permanent extinction of its brilliant career.

3. Its desolation is complete (Eze ). The sword of the mighty will beat down the proud pomp of Egypt and destroy its people. The cattle that browsed beside its rivers shall be swept away, so that no foot of man or hoof of beast shall trouble these waters more. The waters shall then settle and grow clear and the canals flow like oil; no longer shall they descend violently, as the overflowing Nile, on other countries, but shall become still and sluggish in political action. The land shall be stripped of its abundance—"destitute of that whereof it was full"—and desolation shall reign supreme.

III. Fills surrounding nations with dread (Eze ). The rehearsal of Egypt's tragic fate shall paralyse the people of other lands with fear. Kings shall shake with terror and tremble continually, as if apprehensive that a similar punishment is impending over them. It shall then be evident that Egypt had a greater foe than Nebuchadnezzar, and one who could not be insulted and ignored with impunity. "Then shall they know that I am the Lord" (Eze 32:15). The desolating weapon was the sword of Babylon; but it was brandished by the arm of the invisible Jehovah. If men will not seek to know God in the tenderness of His mercy, they shall know Him in the severity of His judgment. "Let all the earth fear the Lord: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. He bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: He maketh the devices of the people of none effect" (Psa 33:8; Psa 33:10).

IV. Is the occasion of national sorrow. "This is the lamentation that they will raise; the daughters of the nations shall chant it: they will sing this dirge for Egypt and for all her multitude" (Eze ).—Geikie. London witnessed the other day a remarkable military pageant, when the remains of Field-Marshal Lord Napier of Magdala, the hero of many a fierce battle fought for his country, were borne in funeral procession to their last resting-place in St. Paul's Cathedral. The packed masses of the people in the streets silently and sorrowfully saluting the coffin as it passed; the solemn, melting music of the Grenadiers and Scots Greys, the best musicians of the British army, playing the funeral march; the long lines of Guards in soldierly array, and the softened sunshine occasionally brightening the scene, made up a wonderfully imposing and impressive spectacle. In the presence of royalty and the highest magnates of the realm, and amid the tears of an appreciative people, the body of the great warrior was reverently placed alongside the tombs of heroes who had won distinction in many a hard-fought battle by land and sea. A nation may well mourn the loss of its brave defenders; but who can fathom the depths of grief of a people wildly lamenting over national disaster—the throne overturned, government disorganised, homes wrecked, the land ravaged by the ruthless destroyer, and chaos everywhere!

LESSONS.—

1. Divine vengeance is never inflicted without ample warning.

2. Is based on the highest principles of justice and equity.

3. Will be a terrible awakening to the impenitent wicked.

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES

Eze . "With the Chaldean conquest the political ascendancy of Egypt began finally to decline; the arm of its power was for ever broken; its monarch could no more move about as he pleased and trouble the nations; he was henceforth to reside in comparatively still and peaceful waters, himself on every hand restrained and hemmed in by superior force, and all his pride and glory, as the head of empire, reduced to perpetual desolation. It is Egypt's doom as a kingdom, not the mere condition of its soil and surface, that the prophet throughout has in view."—Fairbairn.

Eze . Difficulties and their Conquest.

1. Difficulties terrify the weak and indolent. "Like a young lion—as a whale in the seas" (Eze ).

2. Difficulties are resolutely encountered by the brave and strong. "I will spread My net over thee" (Eze ).

3. Great difficulties are not conquered without great havoc.

(1.) Their hugeness evident in their ruins (Eze ).

(2.) Their dazzling glamour quenched in darkness (Eze ).

4. Conquered difficulties the admiration and the fear of others.

Eze . "Take up a lamentation." "Ministers that would affect others with the things of God must make it appear that they are themselves affected with the miseries that sinners bring upon themselves by their sins. It becomes us to weep and tremble for those that will not weep and tremble for themselves, to try if thereby we may set them weeping, set them atrembling."—M. Henry.

—"Like a young lion and crocodile"—"for pride, fierceness, and cruelty. Thou domineerest over sea and land, far and wide; thou playest rex."—Trapp.

—"Troubledst the waters." "A great deal of disquiet is often given to the world by the restless ambition and implacable resentments of proud princes. Ahab is he that troubles Israel, and not Elijah. The princes and conquerors of this earth, who, like Pharaoh, gain a great name by aggression and violence, are no better in God's eyes than beasts which live by making the weaker their prey, or monsters of the deep which ‘trouble the waters and foul the rivers' in pursuit of their victims."—Fausset.

Eze . "A large, long, and wide net drawn out to full extent, with which both lions and crocodiles might be taken, and in which this lion and crocodile should certainly be taken, for God, whose hand never errs, will spread the net. In brief, war by land and sea, by a confederacy of many people against Hophra, shall be God's net, wherein he shall be taken, kept a prisoner as he was, and at last strangled."—Pool.

—"He will repay them in their own coin. ‘All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword' (Mat ). As they had spread their net over weaker peoples, with a company of many peoples, so God will spread out His net over them with a company of stronger people, the Chaldeans, who should bring them up as fishes caught in His net (Hab 1:14-17)."—Fausset.

Eze . Darkness.

1. A symbol of destruction and mourning.

2. A proof of the awfulness and completeness of the destruction.

3. Suggests how all the forces of nature are subservient to the purpose of an avenging Deity.

—"As a torch is extinguished. A description of great sorrows, fears, troubles, and perplexities. Or it may intimate particularly the total ruin of the whole kingdom, in which the best, greatest, and noblest parts are: for heaven suppose the government, the sun the king, the moon the queen, the stars the princes and nobles, the bright lights the most eminent of the subjects for wisdom and understanding, and the land the common people. All shall be covered with clouds and darkness of misery and sorrow."—Pool.

Eze . I will involve thee, thy house, thy people, and the whole land in desolation and woe.

Eze . Reasons for Fear.

1. When conscious of personal sin.

2. When the sword of vengeance is brandished before our eyes.

3. When we witness the fall of the proud and great.

4. When in trembling uncertainty as to the nearness and manner of our approaching fate.

—"All they who had admired the grandeur and power of Egypt when the tidings of her destruction should be brought, would be ‘amazed and horribly afraid.' The kings, whosoever were conscious of similar sins to those of Pharaoh, would ‘tremble, every man for his own life, when the Lord should brandish His sword before them.' Those who admire the pomp of worldly greatness shall necessarily be astonished at its downfall, and shall tremble for themselves as involved in the same condemnation as the world which they love. But the fall of earthly things will not take by surprise nor alarm the children of God, whose portion is not in this world, and who know its real emptiness."—Fausset.

Eze . "Spoil the pomp."—"Break her strength, rob her treasures, sack her cities, captivate her people, make the kingdom tributary, and so stain all her glory."—Pool.

Eze . The Desolation of the Sword.

1. The occasion of savage delight to the warlike.

2. Silences the proud boaster.

3. Depreciates the value of human life.

4. The foe of commerce and national prosperity.

5. Is the theme of bitter lamentation among the suffering survivors.

Eze . "Those that delight in war and are on all occasions entering into contention may expect some time or other to be engaged with those who may prove too hard for them. Pharaoh had been forward to quarrel with his neighbours, and to come forth with his rivers—his armies. God will now give him enough of it."—M. Henry.

Eze . "There should be so few men left in Egypt that they should not, as formerly, disturb the waters by digging, swimming, or rowing on them; or no more trouble the waters with the passing of mighty armies over them to invade their neighbours; so few horses or cows that they should not at watering times, or in the heat of the day, foul the waters by running into them and stamping or trampling in them; but the waters should continue pure and undisturbed."—Pool.

Eze . "God can soon empty those of this world's goods that have the greatest fulness of those things and are full of them; that enjoy most, and have their hearts set upon those enjoyments. The Egyptians were full of their pleasant and plentiful country and its rich productions. Every one that talked with them might perceive how much it filled them. But God can soon make their country ‘destitute of that whereof it is full.' It is, therefore, our wisdom to be full of treasures in heaven."—M. Henry.

—"Then shall they know that I am the Lord." "The awful and destructive visitation shall be sanctified to those that survive; it shall yield them important instruction, and they shall give glory to My power and justice, while a sensible conviction of the vanity of the world, and of the fading and perishing nature of all things in it, shall draw their affections from it and from all that it contains, and induce them to seek an acquaintance with Me as their portion and happiness."—Benson.

HOMILETICS

A FUNERAL CHANT OVER THE GRAVES OF FALLEN NATIONS

(Eze .)

In this paragraph Ezekiel, the prophet of the captivity, foresees the approaching downfall of the great monarchies who had oppressed and were then oppressing his beloved Israel. He sees them marching to the grave in slow and solemn funeral pomp, and as if standing by the huge sepulchre into which they disappear, chanted over them a sad, pathetic dirge which rises here and there into strains of the wildest and weirdest character. "The seers of Judah," writes Milman, "uttered their sublime funeral anthems over the greatness of each independent tribe or monarchy as it was swallowed up, first in the empire of Assyria, and then Chaldea. They were like the tragic chorus of the awful drama which was unfolding itself to the Eastern world." This funeral chant of Ezekiel's has in it more of sorrow than exultation. The old-world kingdoms, with all their tyranny and oppression, are not allowed to pass away without a sigh. He is friendless indeed who does not leave behind a solitary mourner. Observe—

I. That the grave brings the proudest nationalities to a common level. Egypt, with her sedate antiquity and stately pride; Assyria, with her vast empire and riches; Elam, with her strong-armed bowmen; Edom, with her fierce highlanders; and the princes and kinglets of the North—Meshech, Tubal, and the Zidonians—are all buried in the same earth over which their mighty armies tramped. The clash of arms, the flutter of banners, the noisy pomp of regal magnificence, the shout of triumph, and the groan of defeat are alike unheard and unheeded. The rules of etiquette, the rights of precedence and supremacy, about which so many bloody battles were fought, are now utterly meaningless.

II. That the grave knows no distinction of persons. Prince and peasant, the general and the humblest soldier, the great in wisdom, wealth, and power, lie side by side with the common multitude; rich and poor, circumcised and uncircumcised, are huddled together in the same capacious sepulchre. The Egyptian, with his fastidious notions of cleanliness, shrank from the contamination of the uncircumcised, but the grave effectually cured all such scruples. The reflective Cyrus, the great Persian conqueror, saw how completely the grave would strip him of his imperial glory when he ordered this inscription to be engraven on his tomb—"O man! whatsoever thou art, and whencesoever thou comest, I know that thou wilt come to the same condition in which I now am. I am Cyrus, who brought the empire to the Persians: do not envy me, I beseech thee, this little piece of ground which covereth my body!"

III. That the grave reveals the vanity of national strife and ambition. Questions of boundaries, official privilege, insulted honour, or tarnished fame dwindle into utter insignificance. Great warriors have cherished to the last the memory of their victories and parted reluctantly with the trophies of their ambition. A king of Prussia, conscious of the near approach of death, desired to see his army defile before him for the last time, and his couch was moved to a window where by reflection in a mirror he was able to take a last adieu of his troops as they marched past; and it is said that Napoleon Bonaparte ordered himself to be seated on his deathbed and arrayed in military dress that he might meet the King of Terrors as he had been accustomed to meet his mortal foes. In the grave all military glory is for ever quenched. Philip III. of Spain, who strove to do his duty as king, once said he would rather lose his kingdom than willingly offend God. Convinced of the vanity of all imperial ambitions in comparison with the claims of religion, he broke forth with the lament—"Would to God I had never reigned! Oh that those years I have spent in my kingdom I had lived a solitary life in the wilderness! Oh that I had lived a life alone with God! What doth all my glory profit, but that I have so much the more torment in my death!"

IV. That it is but meagre comfort to the fallen that in the grave they share the same fate as those who have been as great as they" (Eze ). Yet this is all the comfort some will have: it was all that proud Egypt found. It is no satisfaction and but little relief to the sufferer to know that many others suffer with him. In this verse there is a clear indication of a consciousness after death. This indestructible consciousness will be the vehicle of future joy or sorrow.

LESSONS.—

1. National reverses evoke sympathy.

2. The grave suggests many salutary reflections.

3. The highest and best work we do survives the tragedy of the grave.

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES

Eze . "Thus closes the Divine word against Pharaoh and his kingdom; they go down to the land of forgetfulness in common with all the surrounding heathen who stood in a position of rivalry or antagonism to Israel. Throughout the whole series of the predictions we find the one grand point of difference between the two parties steadily kept in view; the judgment that lights on Israel is only partial and temporary, the power and dominion again return to him and settle in everlasting possession, while the neighbouring kingdoms that in turn aspired to the supremacy fall to rise no more. The question virtually discussed in all such predictions is this—Who shall give law to the world; Israel, or the rival nations of heathendom? And the answer returned, though with manifold variety of form, is perpetually the same. All other dominions are destined to pass away; that of Israel alone becomes permanent and universal. This is to be sought only in Christ, in whom all that peculiarly belonged to Israel concentrates itself and rises to its proper perfection. In Him, therefore, it is that the pre-eminence destined for Israel has its accomplishment, and all the external victories gained over the surrounding heathen, or the advantages granted to Israel in preference to them, were but the sign and prelude of that glorious ascendancy over the whole earth which in right is already Christ's, and in due time shall also be His in actual possession."—Fairbairn.

—"The prophet in this funeral song brings Egypt into connection with the congeries of nations on which the Chaldean judgment fell. The practical aim is expressed in the words of the Psalmist—‘Trust not in oppression and fraud; if riches increase, set not your heart on them.' The prophecy is fitted to call forth a deep feeling of the vanity of earthly things; to warn against carnal confidence in earthly power and its abuse by violence and wrong; and, what comes specially into account here, to guard against envying those who enjoy such power for the moment. Human nature, what is it? In an hour it falls to the ground!"—Hengstenberg.

Eze . "The Egyptians affected to be buried either in the isle Chemnis or in the Pyramids. Their kings and great ones thus would be laid by themselves, but Ezekiel provides them their grave among common people—buries them where they fall. They shall not have what they account so much of in their funeral."—Pool.

"Where they an equal honour share,

Who buried or unburied are;

Where Agamemnon knows no more

Than Irus, he condemned before;

Where fair Achilles and Thersites lie,

Equally naked, poor, and dry."

Eze . Beauty.

1. A rare endowment, whether national or personal.

2. No modern type that has not been equalled in the past.

3. No protection against the ravages of time.

4. Undistinguishable when the grave has done its work.

5. Its possession no ground for vain boasting.

—"‘Art thou better than others that thou shouldst not die and be laid in dust? Speak, Hophra, if thou hast any privilege to plead, what hast thou to say why thou shouldst not go down to the pit as a despised mortal?' The prophet, hearing no plea of privilege, says sarcastically, ‘Go down; take up thy lodging, thy long, dark, dismal recess, where thy dust and bones shall never be known by any royal figure.'"—Pool.

—"How little does it signify whether a mummy be well embalmed, wrapped round with rich stuff, and beautifully painted on the outside or not! Go down into the tombs, examine the niches, and see whether one dead carcass be preferable to another."—A. Clarke.

Eze . "Make no ceremony more than usually is made when common soldiers, slain in the field where the battle is fought, are dragged by scores into mighty pits and thrown into them promiscuously, or, suppose any of them unwilling to stoop, draw them to it against their will."—Pool.

Eze . The Grim Welcome of the Dead. A welcome.

1. To the great majority—"All her multitude."

2. To defeat—"Slain by the sword."

3. To humiliation and shame—"They lie with the uncircumcised, though they caused terror in the land of the living."

4. To whatever comfort may be found in sharing the same fate as great conquerors—"Pharaoh shall see them and be comforted."

Eze . "His graves are about him." The Graves of our Kindred.

1. Recall many tender memories of affection, acts of kindness, and words of counsel received from those who sleep so peacefully there.

2. Arrest the tendency to reproach those who are gone for any injustice they may have done to us when living.

3. Remind us we shall soon be called to share their resting-place, and how utterly useless all worldly gain, power, and reputation will be to us there.

4. While reverently bending over them we should solemnly resolve, by God's help, to seek that glorious immortality which the grave is powerless to destroy.

Eze . "All which caused terror"—"where a terror to all they would be enemies to, and proudly boasted of and inhumanly used their power, now lie quiet, their dust little regarded, less feared, and least of all pitied."—Pool.

Eze . "With their weapons of war." "It was usual in former times to put swords, shields, and other armour in the graves of military men, as they did in the grave of Theseus and on the bier of Alexander the Great. But the meaning of the prophet here is, that those of whom he speaks should be without these usual martial solemnities with which people formerly honoured their dead."—Benson.

Eze . "It is God who speaks, who had punished former tyrants, that the world might see His just judgments. They were a terror to the world by their cruelty, oppression, and continued violence; by their covetousness, ambition, and pride; and God had made them a terror by His just severities in their punishment."—Pool.

—"Surely men disquiet themselves about a vain thing in so keenly pursuing pleasure, gain, fame, and power, at the cost of their immortal souls. What will all these objects of worldly men's pursuit do for them when they are laid in the grave? Lord, do Thou teach us the blessedness of having Thee as our portion for ever!"—Fausset.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Ezekiel 32:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/ezekiel-32.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

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