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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries
Genesis 48

 

 

Verses 1-22

EXPOSITION

Genesis 48:1

And it came to pass after these things (i.e. the events recorded in the preceding chapter, and in particular after the arrangements which had been made for Jacob's funeral), that one told Joseph,—the verb וַיֹּאמֶר is here used impersonally, or passively, for "one told," or "it was told," to Joseph (LXX; ἀπεγγέλη; Vulgate, munciatum est; Rosenmüller, Keil, Kalisch, Murphy, et alii); or probably emphatically, by way of calling attention to the circumstance—denoting perhaps a special messenger (Tayler Lewis). Behold, thy father is sick. The word in the original conveys the idea of being worn down or becoming infirm through age or disease, and may suggest the notion that Jacob was now regarded as rapidly approaching dissolution. And he took with him his two sons, Manasseh end Ephraim—who at this time must have been about eighteen or twenty years of age (Keil), and who appear to have accompanied their father from respectful affection to their aged relative (Murphy), or to have been taken in the hope that "the words of their blessed grand father would make an indelible impression on their hearts (Lawson), rather than in order to obtain from Jacob "a pledge of their unqualified admission as members of his house," of their exclusion from which Joseph was not altogether groundlessly apprehensive, in consequence of their being the children of an Egyptian mother (Kalisch).

Genesis 48:2

And one told Jacob ( וַיַּגֵּד, also used impersonally, like וַיֹּאמֶר in Genesis 48:1), and said, Behold, thy son Joseph cometh unto thee: and Israel—the significance of this change of name it is impossible to overlook (cf. Genesis 45:27, Genesis 45:28)—strengthened himself (for the work which, as head of the theocratic family, he now felt himself inwardly moved to perform), and sat upon the bedi.e. he raised himself up to a sitting posture.

Genesis 48:3, Genesis 48:4

And Jacob said unto Joseph,—recalling the experiences of early days—God Almighty—El Shaddai (vide Genesis 17:1)—appeared unto me at Luzi.e. Bethel (vide Genesis 28:17, Genesis 28:19; Genesis 35:6, Genesis 35:15)—in the land of Canaan, and blessed me, and said unto me, Behold, I will make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, and I will make of thee a multitude of people; and will give this land to thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession. It is obvious that Jacob principally has in his mind the theophany at Bethel on his return from Padan-aram.

Genesis 48:5, Genesis 48:6

And now thy two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, which were born unto thee in the land of Egypt (vide Genesis 41:50-52) before I came unto thee into Egypt,—this would almost seem to imply that Jacob knew of Joseph's having had sons born to him since his (Jacob's) arrival at Goshen—are mine (i.e. I shall reckon them as my own sons, giving them an equal place with the other members of my family); as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine—literally, Ephraim and Manasseh, as Reuben and Simeon, shall be mine. The double portion thus conferred upon Joseph in the persons of his son? was a practical investiture of him with the birthright of which Reuben had been deprived (1 Chronicles 5:1), in respect at least of the inheritance; in respect of the honor of being the next connecting link in the chain of redemption, leading on and down to the coming of the Savior, the birthright appears to have been transferred to Judah (Genesis 49:8-10). And thy issue, which thou begettest after them, shall be thine (i.e. shall be reckoned in thine own family), and shall be called after the name of their brethren in their inheritance. They should not form heads of separate tribes, but be ranked under the banners of Ephraim and Manasseh. It is uncertain whether Joseph had more sons than two (vide supra); if he had, they were included in the families of their brethren, as here directed (cf. Numbers 26:28-37; 1 Chronicles 7:14-29).

Genesis 48:7

And as for me (literally, and I, the pronoun being emphatic), when I came from Padan,—literally, in my coming, i.e. while on my journey, from Padam, or Padan-aram. This is the only place where the shorter designation is employed (cf. Genesis 25:20)—Rachel—the mention to Joseph of his beloved mother could not fail to kindle emotion in his breast, as obviously it had revived a pang of sorrow in that of the old man—" the remembrance of the never-to-be-forgotten one' causing a sudden spasm of feeling" (Delitzsch)—died by me—not for me in the sense of sharing with me my toils and perils, and so bringing on herself the deadly travail which cut her off (Lunge), which is too subtle and metaphysical in its refinement; but either upon me, i.e. as an heavy affliction falling on me (Rosenmüller, Gesenius, Murphy, et alii); or at my side, i.e. near me (Keil, Wordsworth, 'Speaker's Commentary'); or perhaps to me, meaning, This happened to me, or, I saw Rachel die (Kalisch); or possibly with a touch of tender emotion, Rachel to me, i.e. my Rachel died (Tayler Lewis)—in the land of Canaan in the way, when yet there was but a little way—literally, a length of ground; the LXX. add ἱππόδρομος, meaning probably such a distance as a horse can go without being over-worked (vide Genesis 35:16)—to come unto Ephrath: and I buried her there in the way of Ephrath; the same is Bethlehem.

Genesis 48:8

And Israel beheld Joseph's sons, and said, Who are these? The failing sight of the patriarch (Genesis 48:10) probably was the reason why he did not sooner recognize his grandchildren, and the fact that he did not at first discern their presence shows that his adoption of them into the number of the theocratic family was prompted not by the accidental impulse of a natural affection excited through beholding the youths, but by the inward promptings of the Spirit of God.

Genesis 48:9

And Joseph said unto his father, They are my sons (of whom you have just spoken), whom God hath given me in this place. It speaks highly in Joseph's favor that, after listening to Jacob's promise regarding Ephraim and Manasseh, he did not seek to draw his aged father's attention to the young men before him, but quietly waited for Jacob to take the initiative in any further communications of a personal nature that he might wish to address to them. And he (i.e. Jacob) said Bring them, I pray thee, unto me, and I will bless them.

Genesis 48:10

Now (literally, and) the eyes of Israel were dim (literally, heavy) for age, so that he could not see. This explains why he did not earlier recognize his grandchildren, and why he asked them to be set close by his bed. And he (their father) brought them near unto him; and he (their old grandfather) kissed them, and embraced them (cf. Isaac's blessing of Jacob, Genesis 27:26, Genesis 27:27).

Genesis 48:11

And Israel said unto Joseph, I had not thought to see thy face: and, lo, God (Elohim) hath showed me also thy seed. The first half of Israel's utterance is rendered by the LXX. "Ιδοὺ τοῦ προσώπου σου οὐκ ἐστερήθην"

Genesis 48:12

And Joseph brought them out from between his knees (literally, from near his knees, i.e. the knees of his father, who while in the act of embracing had drawn them into that position), and he (viz. Joseph) bowed himself with his face to the earth. The reading "and they bowed themselves," i.e. Ephraim and Manasseh (Samaritan, Michaelis), and the rendering καὶ προσκύνησαν αὐτῴ (LXX.), are incorrect.

Genesis 48:13

And Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel's left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel's right hand, and brought them near unto him. Joseph naturally expected that Jacob's right hand would fall upon the head of Manasseh, as the firstborn, although with regard to even this a doubt might have been suggested if he had remembered how Isaac had been preferred to Ishmael, and Jacob to Esau.

Genesis 48:14

And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephraim's head,—the first instance of the imposition of hands being used as a symbol of blessing. Though not necessarily connected with the form of benediction, it is not without a natural fitness to suggest the transmission of spiritual benefit. Accordingly it afterwards became the recognized mode of conveying to another some supernatural power or gift, and was employed in the Old Testament Church in the dedication of priests (Numbers 27:18, Numbers 27:23; Deuteronomy 34:9), and in the New in the ordination of Christian office-bearers (Acts 6:6; Acts 8:17; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6), as well as by the Savior and his apostles in the performance of many of their miracles—who was the younger (literally, and he the little one, i.e. the younger), and his left hand upon Manasseh's head, guiding his hands wittingly;—literally, he placed his hands, prudently, i.e. of set purpose, the piel of שָׂכַל, to look at, conveying the intensive signification of acting with prudence and deliberation (Gesenius, Furst); intelligere fecit manus suas hoc est, docte, scite, et petite imposuit eis manus; a rendering of the words which has been adopted by the best scholars (Calvin, Dathe, Rosenmüller, Keil, Kalisch, Murphy, Taylor Lewis, and others), though the translation, "he crossed his hands," which regards שִׂכֵּל as the pile of an unused root signifying to intertwine, ἐναλλὰξ τὰς χεῖρας (LXX.), commutans marius (Vulgate), is not entirely destitute of learned supporters (Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem, Pererius, Knobel, Delitzsch, Gerlach, and others)—for Manasseh was the firstborn.

Genesis 48:15,Genesis 48:16

And he blessed Joseph (i.e. in his sons), and said, God,—literally, the Elohim. The use of Elohim in a passage (Genesis 48:15-19) which is undoubtedly Jehovistic in its import, and is by advanced critics (Davidson, Colenso) assigned to that writer, has been explained (Hengstenberg) as an indication that "the great spiritual Sun, Jehovah, was at that time," viz; at the entrance of the captivity, "concealed behind a cloud from the chosen race;" but, without resorting to any such doubtful hypothesis, it is sufficient to observe that Jacob practically identities the Elohim spoken of with Jehovah, while by using the former expression he conveys the thought that the blessing about to be pronounced proceeded forth, not from Deity in general, but from the particular Elohim who had graciously manifested himself in the manner after described—before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk,—(cf. Genesis 17:1; Genesis 24:40) the God here referred to was one who had "a face," or manifested presence; in other words, was Jehovah—the God which fed me—literally, the Elohim shepherding me (cf. Psalms 23:1; Psalms 28:9)—all my life long—literally, from as yet (sc. I was), i.e. from the beginning of my existence, ἐξ νεότητος (LXX.)—unto this day, the Angel—the Maleach here spoken of cannot possibly be a creature, since he is explicitly identified with Elohim, but must have been the Jehovah Angel with whom Jacob wrestled at the ford of Jabbok (Genesis 2:23). The reading of the Samaritan codex, הַמֶּלֶךְ, the king, is open to suspicion—which redeemed me from all evil,—literally, the (sc. angel) redeeming me; the first use of the term goel, from גָּאַל, to buy back or redeem (Gesenius), to separate or untie (Furst), or to stain as with blood, hence to be stained or polluted, as one who suffers a kinsman's blood to go unavenged, hence to remove the stain of blood by taking vengeance on the murderer (Taylor Lewis). Applied under the law to the next of kin (Le Genesis 25:25; Genesis 27:13, Genesis 27:15, Genesis 27:19, &c; &c.), it is also used of God redeeming men, and especially Israel, from captivity (Exodus 6:6; Isaiah 43:1). In this sense it was employed by Jacob (cf. Genesis 48:16 with Genesis 49:18) and by Job (Job 19:21) to describe the Divine Rescuer who had delivered them from ill both temporal and spiritual, and who was to complete his emancipating work by ultimately ransoming them from the power of the grave. The Goel to whom both Jacob and Job looked forward, and of whom both Moses and the prophets testified, was Christ (Galatians 3:11; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 1:18)—bless the lads. The singular verb suggests to Luther the reflection that the writer "conjungit in uno opere benedicendi tres personas, Deum Patrem, Deum Pastorem, et Angelum," from which he draws the obvious conclusion, "aunt igitur hi tres unus Deus et unus benedictor." And let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac;—literally, and my name and the name of my fathers shall be named in them, i.e. they shall be counted my sons and the children of my ancestors, though born of thee (Calvin, Rosenmüller, Lawson, Murphy, Wordsworth, and others); or, May this name be preserved by them, and the race of Abraham propagated by them? may the fathers and I live in them! (Gerlach, Kalisch); or, what seems more appropriate than either, May the grace and salvation enjoyed by my fathers and myself be renewed in them! (Keil, Lange)—and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth. The original conveys the sense of swarming like the fishes of the sea, the ἀπαξ λεγόμενον, דָּגָה (from which comes the term דָּג, a fish, from being so wonderfully prolific), signifying to cover over with a multitude (vide Gesenius, 'Lexicon,' sub voce).

Genesis 48:17

And when (literally, and) Joseph saw that his father laid (or was laying) his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, it displeased him:—literally, and it was evil in his eyes (cf. Genesis 28:8)—and (supposing his father had made a mistake) he held up (or took hold of) his father's hand, to remove it from Ephraim's head unto Manasseh's head.

Genesis 48:18

And Joseph said unto his father, Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head. "From Joseph's behavior we cannot certainly infer that, like Isaac, he loved the firstborn better than the youngest; but he was sorry that an honor was not given to the eldest which he would naturally expect, and bestowed on the youngest, who did not expect it, and who would not have been hurt by the want of it" (Lawson).

Genesis 48:19

And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly (literally, and over against that; אוּלָם, the strongly adversative particle, signifying that which stands in front of, or opposite to, another thing) his younger brother shall be greater than he (cf. Numbers 1:33 with Numbers 1:35; Numbers 2:19 with Numbers 2:21), and his seed shall become a multitude of nations—literally, shall be a fullness of nations. In the time of Moses this prediction began to realize itself. In the first census which took place in the wilderness the tribe of Ephraim had 40,500 men, while that of Manasseh could only reckon 32,200; in the second the numbers received a temporary alteration, Ephraim counting only 32,500, and Manasseh 52,700; but after the conquest the ascendancy of Ephraim wag restored, so that she easily assumed the lead among the ten northern tribes, and acquired a name and an influence only second to that of Judah (cf. 4:5; 5:14; 8:1-35.; 12.).

Genesis 48:20

And he (i.e. Jacob) blessed them that day, saying, In thee (i.e. in Joseph, who is still identified with his sons) shall Israel (the nation) bless, saying, God (Elohim, the supreme source of all blessing) make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh: and he set Ephraim Before Manasseh—"in the position of his hands, and the terms of the blessing" (Keil).

Genesis 48:21

And Israel (Jacob) said unto Joseph, Behold, I die: but God (Elohim) shall be with you, and bring you again unto the land of your fathers. "For Joseph and his children a great promise and dispensation" (Lange).

Genesis 48:22

Moreover (literally, and) I have given—or, I give (Keil), I will give (Kalisch), the preterit being used prophetically as a future, or even as a present, the event being regarded, from its certainty, as already accomplished. It is thus not absolutely clear that Jacob here alludes to any past transaction in his own personal history—to thee one portion—literally, one shoulder, or ridge, or elevated tract of land, שְׁכֶם; unam pattern (Vulgate), with which agree several of the ancient versions (Onkelos, Syriac)—above thy brethren, which I took—or take (Keil), or shall take (Kalisch)—out of the hand of the Amorite—a general name for the inhabitants of Canaan (vide Genesis 15:16)—with my sword and with my bow. As Scripture has preserved no account of any military exploit in the history of Jacob such as is here described, the patriarch's language has been understood as referring to the plot of ground at Shoe. hem which Jacob purchased of Hamor the father of Shechem (Genesis 33:19), and as signifying either that he had captured it by sword and bow, in the sense that his sons at the head of his armed retainers had put the inhabitants of the town to the sword, and so taken possession of the entire district (Calvin, Rosenmüller, Murphy); or that, though he had peacefully paid for it, he yet required at a subsequent period to recover it by force of arms from the Canaanites (Lawson, Bush, Wordsworth); or that after the terrible tragedy at Shechem, when God put a fear upon the surrounding cities, Jacob and his sons stood in the gate of Shechem in the armed expectation of a hostile attack, and so may be said to have taken it by sword and bow (Rabbi Solomon, Lyra, Willet). It seems, however, better to regard the words as a prophetic utterance pointing forward to the conquest of Canaan, which Jacob here represents himself, in the persons of his descendants, as taking from the Amorites by means of sword and bow, and as intimating that the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh would receive a double portion of the inheritance, the word שְׁכֶם being probably designed to convey a hint that the tract to be in future assigned to Joseph's descendants would be the region round about the ancient city Shechem (Ainsworth, Keil, Kalisch, Lunge, &c.).

HOMILETICS

Genesis 48:1-22

Jacob's dying utterances.

I. AN OLD MAN'S SICK-BED. "It came to pass after these things, that one told Joseph, Behold, thy father is sick." In this the venerable patriarch—

1. Suffered an experience that is common to all. For nearly three half-centuries had this weather-beaten pilgrim been able to maintain himself erect amid the numberless vicissitudes of life. Strong, healthy, vigorous, and active too, he appears to have been until now, notwithstanding the peculiarly trying and checkered career through which he had passed. But all the while, the rolling years, as they glided softly by, had been touching him with their invisible fingers, and leaving on him their ineffaceable impressions, imperceptibly but surely relaxing his corded muscles, whitening and diminishing his manly locks, loosening his joints, making his step less lithe and firm, and generally draining away his strength. And now, at length, he had arrived where all men must, sooner or later, come, if they have a death-bed at all, no matter how bright may be their eye, or how ruddy their countenance, or how stalwart their frame, or how Herculean their strength, to that period of infirmity and sickness that precedes dissolution.

2. Enjoyed a privilege accorded to few. Immediately that he had fallen sick, a messenger, dispatched from Goshen, carried tidings to the vice-regal palace in the great metropolis, and Joseph, his beloved son, accompanied by his two boys, Ephraim and Manasseh, at once descended to express his sympathy and lend his aid. Not to many is it granted, in this world of separations and bereavements, to have all their family around them when they breathe their last, or to have their Josephs even, to put their hands upon the sinking eyelids, and gently close them in the sleep of death. Venerable pilgrim! Much afflicted in thy riper years, thou wast greatly comforted in thy latter days.

II. AN OLD PILGRIM'S REMINISCENCES. Learning of Joseph's arrival, the aged father musters his rapidly failing strength, and, recognizing within his withered bosom the stirrings of the old prophetic spirit, prepares himself, by sitting upright in his bed, for delivering whatever communication should be put into his trembling lips. Casting his thoughts back upon the past with that fond delight with which the aged recall the story of their younger years, he relates to Joseph—

1. How El Shaddai had appeared to him at Luz, or Bethel, in the land of Canaan, as he returned from Mesopotamia.

2. What God had promised him on that memorable occasion, that he should grow into a multitude of people, who should eventually possess the land, adding by way of parenthesis, at this stage, that in view of that inheritance to come he intended to adopt the sons of Joseph as his own; and—

3. The great affliction that had happened to him almost immediately after in the loss of Rachel, Joseph's mother, to whose premature death and affecting burial "in the way of Ephrath" the old man, even at that long distance of time, cannot refer without emotion. "As for me, Rachel died upon me in the land of Canaan in the way."

III. AN OLD SAINT'S BLESSING. It is probable that, though Jacob had already referred to Joseph's sons, he had not yet been conscious of their presence, for "the eyes of Israel were dim for age, so that he could not see." At length, however, discerning unfamiliar forms in the chamber, and ascertaining they were Ephraim and Manasseh, he proceeds to give them his patriarchal benediction.

1. The actions of the patriarch.

2. The contents of the blessing.

IV. AN OLD PROPHET'S PREDICTION. Behold, I die; but God shall be with you, and bring you again into the land of your fathers."

1. The time when it was uttered. When Jacob was on the eve of death. It is not at all improbable that the soul's vision of unseen (celestial and future) things becomes clearer as the obscuring veil of this mortal flesh wears thin; but the power of apprehending things to come, which Jacob in this instance displayed, was not due to such intensified spiritual penetration. Neither is it necessary to suppose that he received at this moment any special supernatural communication. Simply, he directed his dying gaze to the sure word of promise.

2. The substance of what it said. It announced nothing more than God already promised, viz; that he would continue with Jacob's descendants in Egypt, and eventually bring them up again to Canaan.

3. The guarantee to which it pointed. This was implicitly contained in the expression, "the land of your fathers." Canaan had been given in covenant to Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob; and hence of necessity it would ultimately be restored to their seed according to the terms of the covenant.

HOMILIES BY J.F. MONTGOMERY

Genesis 48:1-22

We are admitted into the inner chamber of the patriarch's departing life, and we see there the presence of Jehovah with him. He is—

1. The subject of inspiration.

2. The mediator of the Divine promises. He is under the control of purposes which have been swaying him all his life.

3. A witness to Divine faithfulness. The grandfather blessing the grandchildren. The blessing passes on to the third and fourth generation. Yet the human blessing is only the type of the Divine.

"The angel which redeemed me from all evil bless the lads." Jacob made a cross with his hands over the heads of the boys. It displeased Joseph, but it pleased God. The imposition of hands is also here. The name of Jacob is named upon them, the symbol of the covenant. Their prosperity is predicted, but it is connected immediately with their covenant standing. The elevated state of mind in the patriarch is a testimony to the sustaining power of religion in fleshly weakness. It points on too to the survival of the soul after the death of the body. The preference of Ephraim reminds us that all is ascribed to the grace of God.—R.

Genesis 48:15, Genesis 48:16

HOMILIES BY J.F. MONTGOMERY

The threefold blessing.

Though the doctrine of the Trinity is not revealed in the Old Testament with the same clearness as in the New Testament, the light of the gospel reveals many indications of it. In Numbers 6:24, Numbers 6:27, the "name" of God is put upon the children of Israel in a triple formula. A name suggests what we know of the person named. The "name" of God is what he has revealed concerning himself (cf. Exodus 34:5-7; Psalms 20:1). The threefold benediction of Numbers 6:24 (cf. Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8) answers to the apostolic benediction of 2 Corinthians 13:14. And Jacob's solemn blessing of his grandsons in a threefold name of God, answers to the formula of Christian baptism (Matthew 28:19) into (εἰς) the name of the Trinity; while the word "bless," being in the singular, points to the unity of the Godhead. Whether the distinction of the Persons was known to Jacob matters little to us, if we believe that" these things were written for our learning." His prophetic blessing speaks to us of Fatherhood, Sanctification, Redemption, the blessings which we refer to the three Persons. The order of the two last is different from that which we usually observe; but cf. 1 Corinthians 1:30. "God before whom my fathers did walk." The well-spring of all grace and source of all blessing. Of his own inherent love, caring for us (1 Peter 5:7). His purpose, that we should rejoice in hope (Romans 12:12); having communion with him here (Philippians 4:6, Philippians 4:7), the foretaste of eternal joy. Creation the proof of this good will (Psalms 19:1). The infinity of his power, and minuteness of his care. The application of this to us (Matthew 10:29-31). The Bible and nature agree in declaring God's fatherhood. On this rests the call to walk before him (Genesis 17:1; Malachi 1:6), which can be obeyed only through belief of his fatherhood and love (Romans 8:3). Therefore he gives the spirit of adoption (Romans 8:15), the personal application of the general truth of his love, whereby we realize our position as children by grace (Titus 3:5). "The God which fed me." The Holy Ghost imparts to men the bread of life.

1. Historically. By his agency the eternal Son became incarnate to give his flesh as the living bread.

2. Practically. By his power we are fed. Christ's work is applied to our conscience (John 16:14); we receive the food of our souls. This is the way of sanctification. It cannot be enforced by rules or penalties. However these may constrain outward observance, they cannot bring about the surrender of the will, the desire "Thy will be done," which is the principle of holiness. "The angel which redeemed me from all evil." Reminded of Psalms 91:11, and probably some such idea was in Jacob's mind. But there is a foresight of Christ, the Angel of the covenant (Malachi 3:1), in whom God's name is (Exodus 23:20); of a redemption going far beyond earthly danger; "all evil" From sin and all its fruits of sorrow Christ redeemed us (Romans 6:14; Galatians 3:18). Jacob, from his own experience, knew that "God is faithful." To us, a wider view of deliverance is given. And the pledge of God's faithfulness is Romans 8:32; and the assurance that it gives us 1Jn 6:2.—M.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Genesis 48:4". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/genesis-48.html. 1897.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, June 1st, 2020
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
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