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Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at

Joshua Chapter 6

Joshua 6:1

jos 6:1

When Joshua had taken off his shoes, the prince of the army of God made known to him the object of his coming (Jos 6:2-5). But before relating the message, the historian first of all inserts a remark concerning the town of Jericho, in the form of an explanatory clause, for the purpose of showing the precise meaning of the declaration which follows.

(Note: If there is any place in which the division of chapters is unsuitable, it is so here; for the appearance of the prince of the angels does not terminate with Jos 5:15, but what he had come to communicate follows in Jos 6:2-5, and Jos 6:1 merely contains an explanatory clause inserted before his message, which serves to throw light upon the situation (vid., Ewald, 341). If we regard the account of the appearance of the angel as terminating with Jos 5:15, as Knobel and other commentators have done, we must of necessity assume either that the account has come down to us in a mutilated form, or that the appearance ceased without any commission being given. The one is as incredible as the other. The latter especially is without analogy; for the appearance in Act 10:9., which O. v. Gerlach cites as similar, contains a very distinct explanation in Act 10:13-16.)

This meaning is to be found not merely in the fact that the Lord was about to give Jericho into the hands of the Israelites, but chiefly in the fact that the town which He was about to give into their hands was so strongly fortified.

Jos 6:1

"Jericho was shutting its gates (vid., Jdg 9:51), and closely shut." The participles express the permanence of the situation, and the combination of the active and passive in the emphatic form מסגּרת (lxx συγκεκλεισμένη καὶ ὠχυρωμένη; Vulg. clausa erat atque munita) serves to strengthen the idea, to which still further emphasis is given by the clause, "no one was going out and in," i.e., so firmly shut that no one could get out or in.

Jos 6:2-5

"And the Lord said to Joshua:" this is the sequel to Jos 5:15, as Jos 6:1 is merely a parenthesis and Jehovah is the prince of the army of Jehovah (Jos 5:14), or the angel of Jehovah, who is frequently identified with Jehovah (see Pentateuch, pp. 106ff.). "See, I have given into thy hand Jericho and its king, and the mighty men of valour." ("Have given," referring to the purpose of God, which was already resolved upon, though the fulfilment was still in the future.) "The mighty men of valour" (brave warriors) is in apposition to Jericho, regarded as a community, and its king. In Jos 6:3-5 there follows an explanation of the way in which the Lord would give Jericho into the hand of Joshua. All the Israelitish men of war were to go round the town once a day for six days. אחת פּעם ... הקּיף, "going round about the city once," serves as a fuller explanation of סבּותם ("ye shall compass"). As they marched in this manner round the city, seven priests were to carry seven jubilee trumpets before the ark, which implies that the ark itself was to be carried round the city in solemn procession. But on the seventh day they were to march round the town seven times, and the priests to blow the trumpets; and when there was a blast with the jubilee horn, and the people on hearing the sound of the trumpet raised a great cry, the wall of the town should fall down "under itself." The "jubilee trumpets" (Eng. Ver. "trumpets of rams' horns") are the same as the "jubilee horn" (Eng. Ver. "rams' horn") in Jos 6:5, for which the abbreviated form shophar (trumpet, Jos 6:5; cf. Exo 19:16) or jobel (jubilee: Exo 19:13) is used. They were not the silver trumpets of the priests (Num 10:1.), but large horns, or instruments in the shape of a horn, which gave a loud far-sounding tone (see at Lev 23:24; Lev 25:11). For בש תּקע, blow the trumpet (lit. strike the trumpet), in Jos 6:4, בּקּרן משׁך, draw with the horn, i.e., blow the horn with long-drawn notes, is used in Jos 6:5 (see at Exo 19:13). The people were then to go up, i.e., press into the town over the fallen wall; "every one straight before him," i.e., every one was to go straight into the town without looking round at his neighbour either on the right hand or on the left (vid., Jos 6:20).

Joshua 6:6

jos 6:6

Taking of Jericho. - In the account of this we have first of all a brief statement of the announcement of the divine message by Joshua to the priests and the people (Jos 6:6, Jos 6:7); then the execution of the divine command (Jos 6:8-20); and lastly the burning of Jericho and deliverance of Rahab (Jos 6:21-27).

Jos 6:6-7

In communicating the divine command with reference to the arrangements for taking Jericho, Joshua mentions in the first place merely the principal thing to be observed. The plural ויּאמרוּ ("they said"), in Jos 6:7, must not be altered, but is to be explained on the ground that Joshua did not make the proclamation to the people himself, but through the medium oft he shoterim, who were appointed to issue his commands (see Jos 1:10-11; Jos 3:2-3). In this proclamation the more minute instructions concerning the order of march, which had been omitted in Jos 6:3-5, are given; namely, that החלוּץ was to march in front of the ark. By החלוּץ, "the equipped (or armed) man," we are not to understand all the fighting men, as Knobel supposes; for in the description of the march which follows, the whole of the fighting men ("all the men of war," Jos 6:3) are divided into החלוּץ and המּאסּף (Eng. Ver. "the armed men" and "the rereward," Jos 6:9 and Jos 6:13), so that the former can only have formed one division of the army. It is very natural therefore to suppose, as Kimchi and Rashi do, that the former were the fighting men of the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half Manasseh (הצּבא חלוּצי, Jos 4:13), and the latter the fighting men of the rest of the tribes. On the meaning of מאסּף, see at Num 10:25. If we turn to the account of the facts themselves, we shall see at once, that in the report of the angel's message, in Jos 6:3-5, several other points have been passed over for the purpose of avoiding too many repetitions, and have therefore to be gathered from the description of what actually occurred. First of all, in Jos 6:8-10, we have the appointment of the order of marching, namely, that the ark, with the priests in front carrying the trumpets of jubilee, was to form the centre of the procession, and that one portion of the fighting men was to go in front of it, and the rest to follow after; that the priests were to blow the trumpets every time they marched round during the seven days (Jos 6:8, Jos 6:9, Jos 6:13); and lastly, that it was not till the seventh time of going round, on the seventh day, that the people were to raise the war-cry at the command of Joshua, and then the walls of the town were to fall (Jos 6:10, Jos 6:16). There can be no doubt that we are right in assuming that Joshua had received from the angel the command which he issued to the people in Jos 6:17., that the whole town, with all its inhabitants and everything in it, was to be given up as a ban to the Lord, at the time when the first announcement concerning the fall of the town was made.

Jos 6:8-10

Execution of the divine Command. - Jos 6:8-11. The march round on the first day; and the instructions as to the war-cry to be raised by the people, which are appended as a supplement in Jos 6:10. "Before Jehovah," instead of "before the ark of Jehovah," as the signification of the ark was derived entirely from the fact, that it was the medium through which Jehovah communicated His gracious presence to the people. In Jos 6:9, תּקעוּ is in the perfect tense, and we must supply the relative אשׁר, which is sometimes omitted, not only in poetry, but also in prose, after a definite noun in the accusative (e.g., Exo 18:20; see Ewald, 332, a.). There is not sufficient ground for altering the form of the word into תּקעי, according to the Keri, as תּקע is construed in other cases with the accusative השּׁופר, instead of with בּ, and that not only in poetry, but also in prose (e.g., Jdg 7:22, as compared with Jdg 7:18-20). ותקוע הלוך, "trumpeting continually" (Eng. Ver. "going on and blowing"). הלוך is used adverbially, as in Gen 8:3, etc.

Jos 6:11

"So the ark of the Lord compassed the city," not "Joshua caused the ark to compass the city." The Hiphil has only an active, not a causative, meaning here, as in Sa2 5:23, etc.

Jos 6:12-14

The march on each of the next five days resembled that on the first. "So they did six days." In Jos 6:13, ותקעוּ does not stand for ותקוע, but corresponds to ותקעוּ in Jos 6:8; and the participle הולך is used interchangeably with the inf. abs. הלוך, as in Gen 26:13; Jdg 4:24, etc., so that the Keri הלוך is an unnecessary emendation.

Jos 6:15-20

On the seventh day the marching round the town commenced very early, at the dawning of the day, that they might go round seven times. כּמּשׁפּט, in the manner prescribed and carried out on the previous days, which had become a right through precept and practice. On the seventh circuit, when the priests had blown the trumpet, Joshua commanded the fighting men to raise a war-cry, announcing to them at the same time that the town, with all that was in it, was to be a ban to the Lord, with the exception of Rahab and the persons in her house, and warning them not to take of that which was laid under the ban, that they might not bring a ban upon the camp of Israel. The construction in v. 16, "it came to pass at the seventh time the priests had blown the trumpets, then Joshua said, ... " is more spirited than if the conjunction כּאשׁר had been used before תּקעוּ, or בּתקוע had been used. Because the Lord had given Jericho into the hands of the Israelites, they were to consecrate it to Him as a ban (cherem), i.e., as a holy thing belonging to Jehovah, which was not to be touched by man, as being the first-fruits of the land of Canaan. (On cherem, see the remarks at Lev 27:28-29.) Rahab alone was excepted from this ban, along with all that belonged to her, because she had hidden the spies. The inhabitants of an idolatrous town laid under the ban were to be put to death, together with their cattle, and all the property in the town to be burned, as Moses himself had enjoined on the basis of the law in Lev 27:29. The only exceptions were metals, gold, silver, and the vessels of brass and iron; these were to be brought into the treasury of the Lord, i.e., the treasury of the tabernacle, as being holy to the Lord (Jos 6:19; vid., Num 31:54). Whoever took to himself anything that had been laid under the ban, exposed himself to the ban, not only because he had brought an abomination into his house, as Moses observes in Deu 7:25, in relation to the gold and silver of idols, but because he had wickedly invaded the rights of the Lord, by appropriating that which had been laid under the ban, and had wantonly violated the ban itself. The words, "beware of the ban, that ye do not ban and take of the ban" (Jos 6:18), point to this. As Lud. de Dieu observes, "the two things were altogether incompatible, to devote everything to God, and yet to apply a portion to their own private use; either the thing should not have been devoted, or having been devoted, it was their duty to abstain from it." Any such appropriation of what had been laid under the ban would make the camp of Israel itself a ban, and trouble it, i.e., bring it into trouble (conturbare, cf. Gen 34:30). In consequence of the trumpet-blast and the war-cry raised by the people, the walls of the town fell together, and the Israelites rushed into the town and took it, as had been foretold in Jos 6:5. The position of העם ויּרע is not to be understood as signifying that the people had raised the war-cry before the trumpet-blast, but may be explained on the ground, that in his instructions in Jos 6:16 Joshua had only mentioned the shouting. But any misinterpretation is prevented by the fact, that it is expressly stated immediately afterwards, that the people did not raise the great shout till they heard the trumpet-blast.

As far as the event itself is concerned, the difference attempts which have been made to explain the miraculous overthrow of the walls of Jericho as a natural occurrence, whether by an earthquake, or by mining, or by sudden storming, for which the inhabitants, who had been thrown into a false security by the marvellous procession repeated day after day for several days, were quite unprepared (as Ewald has tried to explain the miracle away), really deserve no serious refutation, being all of them arbitrarily forced upon the text. It is only from the naturalistic stand-point that the miracle could ever be denied; for it not only follows most appropriately upon the miraculous guidance of Israel through the Jordan, but is in perfect harmony with the purpose and spirit of the divine plan of salvation. "It is impossible," says Hess, "to imagine a more striking way, in which it could have been shown to the Israelites that Jehovah had given them the town. Now the river must retire to give them an entrance into the land, and now again the wall of the town must fall to make an opening into a fortified place. Two such decisive proofs of the co-operation of Jehovah so shortly after Moses' death, must have furnished a pledge, even to the most sensual, that the same God was with them who had led their fathers so mightily and so miraculously through the Read Sea." That this was in part the intention of the miracle, we learn from the close of the narrative (Jos 6:27). But this does not explain the true object of the miracle, or the reason why God gave up this town to the Israelites without any fighting on their part, through the miraculous overthrow of their walls. The reason for this we have to look for in the fact that Jericho was not only the first, but the strongest town of Canaan, and as such was the key to the conquest of the whole land, the possession of which would open the way to the whole, and give the whole, as it were, into their hands. The Lord would give His people the first and strongest town of Canaan, as the first-fruits of the land, without any effort on their part, as a sign that He was about to give them the whole land for a possession, according to His promise; in order that they might not regard the conquest of it as their own work, or the fruit of their own exertions, and look upon the land as a well-merited possession which they could do as they pleased with, but that they might ever use it as a gracious gift from the Lord, which he had merely conferred upon them as a trust, and which He could take away again, whenever they might fall from Him, and render themselves unworthy of His grace. This design on the part of God would of necessity become very obvious in the case of so strongly fortified a town as Jericho, whose walls would appear impregnable to a people that had grown up in the desert and was so utterly without experience in the art of besieging or storming fortified places, and in fact would necessarily remain impregnable, at all events for a long time, without the interposition of God. But if this was the reason why the Lord gave up Jericho to the Israelites by a miracle, it does not explain either the connection between the blast of trumpets or the war-cry of the people and the falling of the walls, or the reason for the divine instructions that the town was to be marched round every day for seven days, and seven times on the seventh day. Yet as this was an appointment of divine wisdom, it must have had some meaning.

The significance of this repeated marching round the town culminates unquestionably in the ark of the covenant and the trumpet-blast of the priests who went before the ark. In the account before us the ark is constantly called the ark of the Lord, to show that the Lord, who was enthroned upon the cherubim of the ark, was going round the hostile town in the midst of His people; whilst in Jos 6:8 Jehovah himself is mentioned in the place of the ark of Jehovah. Seven priests went before the ark, bearing jubilee trumpets and blowing during the march. The first time that we read of a trumpet-blast is at Sinai, where the Lord announced His descent upon the mount to the people assembled at the foot to receive Him, not only by other fearful phenomena, but also by a loud and long-continued trumpet-blast (Exo 19:16, Exo 19:19; Exo 20:14-18). After this we find the blowing of trumpets prescribed as part of the Israelitish worship in connection with the observance of the seventh new moon's day (Lev 23:24), and at the proclamation of the great year of jubilee (Lev 25:9). Just as the trumpet-blast heard by the people when the covenant was made at Sinai was as it were a herald's call, announcing to the tribes of Israel the arrival of the Lord their God to complete His covenant and establish His kingdom upon earth; so the blowing of trumpets in connection with the round of feasts was intended partly to bring the people into remembrance before the Lord year by year at the commencement of the sabbatical month, that He might come to them and grant them the Sabbath rest of His kingdom, and partly at the end of every seven times seven years to announce on the great day of atonement the coming of the great year of grace and freedom, which was to bring to the people of God deliverance from bondage, return to their own possessions, and deliverance from the bitter labours of this earth, and to give them a foretaste of the blessed and glorious liberty to which the children of God would attain at the return of the Lord to perfect His kingdom (vid., Pentateuch, pp. 631f.). But when the Lord comes to found, to build up, and to perfect His kingdom upon earth, He also comes to overthrow and destroy the worldly power which opposes His kingdom. The revelation of the grace and mercy of God to His children, goes ever side by side with the revelation of justice and judgment towards the ungodly who are His foes. If therefore the blast of trumpets was the signal to the congregation of Israel of the gracious arrival of the Lord its God to enter into fellowship with it, no less did it proclaim the advent of judgment to an ungodly world. This shows clearly enough the meaning of the trumpet-blast at Jericho. The priests, who went before the ark of the covenant (the visible throne of the invisible God who dwelt among His people) and in the midst of the hosts of Israel, were to announce through the blast of trumpets both to the Israelites and Canaanites the appearance of the Lord of the whole earth for judgment upon Jericho, the strong bulwark of the Canaanitish power and rule, and to foretel to them through the falling of the walls of this fortification, which followed the blast of trumpets and the wary-cry of the soldiers of God, the overthrow of all the strong bulwarks of an ungodly world through the omnipotence of the Lord of heaven and earth. Thus the fall of Jericho became the symbol and type of the overthrow of every worldly power before the Lord, when He should come to lead His people into Canaan and establish His kingdom upon earth. On the ground of this event, the blowing of trumpets is frequently introduced in the writings of the prophets, as the signal and symbolical omen of the manifestations of the Lord in great judgments, through which He destroys one worldly power after another, and thus maintains and extends His kingdom upon earth, and leads it on towards that completion to which it will eventually attain when He descends from heaven in His glory at the time of the last trump, with a great shout, with the voice of the archangel and the trump of God, to raise the dead and change the living, to judge the world, cast the devil, death, and hell into the lake of fire, create a new heaven and new earth, and in the new Jerusalem erect the tabernacle of God among men for all eternity (Co1 15:51.; Th1 4:16-17; Rev 20:1; 21).

The appointment of the march round Jericho, which was to be continued for seven days, and to be repeated seven times on the seventh day, was equally significant. The number seven is a symbol in the Scriptures of the work of God and of the perfection already produced or to be eventually secured by Him; a symbol founded upon the creation of the world in six days, and the completion of the works of creation by the resting of God upon the seventh day. Through this arrangement, that the walls of Jericho were not to fall till after they had been marched round for seven days, and not till after this had been repeated seven times on the seventh day, and then amidst the blast of the jubilee trumpets and the war-cry of the soldiers of the people of God, the destruction of this town, the key to Canaan, was intended by God to become a type of the final destruction at the last day of the power of this world, which exalts itself against the kingdom of God. In this way He not only showed to His congregation that it would not be all at once, but only after long-continued conflict, and at the end of the world, that the worldly power by which it was opposed would be overthrown, but also proved to the enemies of His kingdom, that however long their power might sustain itself in opposition to the kingdom of God, it would at last be destroyed in a moment.

Jos 6:21-23

After the taking of Jericho, man and beast were banned, i.e., put to death without quarter (Jos 6:21; cf. Jos 6:17); Rahab and her relations being the only exceptions. Joshua had directed the two spies to fetch them out of her house, and in the first instance had them taken to a place of safety outside the camp of Israel (Jos 6:22, Jos 6:23). "Her brethren," i.e., her brothers and sisters, as in Jos 2:13, not her brothers only. "All that she had" does not mean all her possessions, but all the persons belonging to her house; and "all her kindred" are all her relations by birth or marriage, with their dependants (cf. Jos 2:13). Clericus is correct in observing, that as Rahab's house was built against the town-wall, and rested partly upon it (Jos 2:15), when the wall fell down, that portion against or upon which the house stood cannot have fallen along with the rest, "otherwise when the wall fell no one would have dared to remain in the house." But we must not draw the further inference, that when the town was burned Rahab's house was spared.

(Note: The statements made by travellers in the middle ages, to the effect that they had seen Rahab's house (Rob. Pal. ii. pp. 295-6), belong to the delusions of pious superstition.)

וגו מחוּץ ויּנּיחוּם (Jos 6:23; cf. Gen 19:16), "they let them rest," i.e., placed them in safety, "outside the camp of Israel," sc., till they had done all that was requisite for a formal reception into the congregation of the Lord, viz., by giving up idolatry and heathen superstition, and turning to the God of Israel as the only true God (to which circumcision had to be added in the case of the men), and by whatever lustrations and purifications were customary at the time in connection with reception into the covenant with Jehovah, of which we have no further information.

Jos 6:24-25

After man and beast had been put to death, and Rahab and her relatives had been placed in security, the Israelites set the town on fire with everything in it, excepting the metals, which were taken to the treasury of the tabernacle, as had been commanded in Jos 6:19. On the conquest of the other towns of Canaan the inhabitants only were put to death, whilst the cattle and the rest of the booty fell to the conquerors, just as in the case of the conquest of the land and towns of Sihon and Og (compare Jos 8:26-27; Jos 10:28, with Deu 2:34-35, and Deu 3:6-7), as it was only the inhabitants of Canaan that the Lord had commanded to be put under the ban (Deu 7:2; Deu 20:16-17). In the case of Jericho, on the contrary, men, cattle, and booty were all put under the ban, and the town itself was to be laid in ashes. This was because Jericho was the first town of Canaan which the Lord had given up to His people. Israel was therefore to sacrifice it to the Lord as the first-fruits of the land, and to sanctify it to Him as a thing placed under the ban, for a sign that they had received the whole land as a fief from his hand, and had no wish to grasp as a prey that which belonged to the Lord.

Jos 6:25

But Rahab and all that belonged to her Joshua suffered to live, so that she dwelt in Israel "unto this day." It is very evident from this remark, that the account was written not very long after the event.

(Note: Rahab is no doubt the same person as the Rachab mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus Christ, who married Salmon the tribe prince of Judah, to whom she bore Boaz, an ancestor of David (Mat 1:5). The doubts which Theophylact expressed as to the identity of the two, and which J. Outhou has since sought to confirm, rest for the most part upon the same doctrinal scruples as those which induced the author of the Chaldee version to make Rahab an innkeeper, namely, the offence taken at her dishonourable calling. Jerome's view, on the other hand, is a very satisfactory one. "In the genealogy of the Saviour," he says, "none of the holy women are included, but only those whom the Scriptures blame, that He who came on behalf of sinners, being himself born of sinners, might destroy the sins of all." The different ways in which the name is written, viz., hee Rhacha'b in Matthew, andChaab in the Sept. version of Joshua, and in Heb 11:31 and Jam 2:25, is not enough to throw any doubt upon the identity of the two, as Josephus always calls the harlot Rahab hee Rhacha'bee. The chronological difficulty, that Salmon and Rahab lived much too soon to have been the parents of Boaz, which is adduced by Knobel as an argument against the identity of the mother of Boaz and the harlot Rahab, has no force unless it can be proved that every link is given in the genealogy of David (in Rut 4:21-22; Ch1 2:11; Mat 1:5), and that Boaz was really the great-grandfather of David; whereas the very opposite, viz., the omission from the genealogies of persons of no celebrity, is placed beyond all doubt by many cases that might be cited. Nothing more is known of Rahab. The accounts of the later Rabbins, such as that she was married to Joshua, or that she was the mother of eight prophets, and others of the same kind, are fables without the slightest historical foundation (see Lightfoot, hor. hebr. et talm. in Mat 1:5).)

Jos 6:26-27

But in order to complete the ban pronounced upon Jericho in perfect accordance with the command of God in Deu 13:17, and to make the destruction of it a memorial to posterity of the justice of God sanctifying itself upon the ungodly, Joshua completed the ban with an oath: "Cursed be the man before the Lord that riseth up and buildeth this city Jericho; he shall lay the foundation thereof at the price of his first-born, and set up its gates at the price of his youngest son" (בּ denoting the price of a thing). The rhythmical parallelism is unmistakeable in this curse. The two last clauses express the thought that the builder of the town would pay for its restoration by the loss of all his sons, from the first-born to the very youngest. The word "buildeth," however, does not refer to the erection of houses upon the site of the town that had been burnt to ashes, but to the restoration of the town as a fortification, the word בּנה being frequently used to denote the fortification of a town (e.g., Kg1 15:17; Ch2 11:6; Ch2 14:5-6). This is evident in general from the fact that a town is not founded by the erection of a number of houses upon one spot, but by the joining of these houses together into an enclosed whole by means of a surrounding wall, but more particularly from the last words of the verse, in which בּנה is explained as ייסּדנּה (lay the foundation thereof) and דּלתיה יצּיב (set up the gates of it). Setting up the gates of a town is not setting up doors to the houses, but erecting town-gates, which can only be done when a town-wall has been built. But if setting up the gates would be a sign of the completion of the wall, and therefore of the restoration of the town as a fortification, the "founding" (laying the foundation) mentioned in the parallel clause can only be understood as referring to the foundation of the town-wall. This view of the curse, which is well supported both by the language and the facts, is also confirmed by the subsequent history. Joshua himself allotted Jericho to the Benjamites along with certain other towns (Jos 18:21), which proves that he intended them to inhabit it; and accordingly we find the city of palms, i.e., Jericho, mentioned afterwards as an inhabited place (Jdg 3:13; Sa2 10:5), and yet it was not till the time of Ahab that Joshua's curse was fulfilled, when Hiel the Bethelite undertook to make it into a fortified town (Kg1 16:34).

(Note: Knobel's opinion, that the Jericho mentioned between the times of Joshua and Ahab in all probability did not stand upon the old site which Hiel was the first to build upon again, is at variance with Kg1 16:34, as it is not stated there that he rebuilt the old site of Jericho, but that he began to build the town of Jericho, which existed, according to Sa2 10:5 and Jdg 3:13, in the time of David, and even of the judges, i.e., to restore it as a fortified town; and it is not raised into a truth by any appeal to the statements of Strabo, Appian, and others, to the effect that Greeks and Romans did not choose places for building upon which any curse rested.)

Jos 6:27

Thus the Lord was with Joshua, fulfilling His promise to him (Jos 1:5.), so that his fame spread through all the land.

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