PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS*
|God's Judgment on Israel's Neighbors
|Indictment of Neighboring Peoples, Israel, and Judah
|Judgment on the Nations
|Judgment on the Neighboring Nations and on Israel Itself
|Gaza and Philistia
|Tyre and Phoenicia
* Although they are not inspired, paragraph divisions are the key to understanding and following the original author's intent. Each modern translation has divided and summarized the paragraphs. Every paragraph has one central topic, truth, or thought. Each version encapsulates that topic in its own distinct way. As you read the text, ask yourself which translation fits your understanding of the subject and verse divisions.
In every chapter we must read the Bible first and try to identify its subjects (paragraphs), then compare our understanding with the modern versions. Only when we understand the original author's intent by following his logic and presentation can we truly understand the Bible. Only the original author is inspired—readers have no right to change or modify the message. Bible readers do have the responsibility of applying the inspired truth to their day and their lives.
Note that all technical terms and abbreviations are explained fully in the following documents: Brief Definitions of Greek Grammatical Structure, Textual Criticism, and Glossary.
READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")
FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL
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
A. Chapters one and two form a literary unit dealing with the sins of Israel (cf. 2:6-16). The first two verses could be the theme of the entire book. Israel's (i.e., the Northern Ten Tribes) unique relationship with YHWH causes them to be uniquely guilty of rebellion (cf. Luke 12:48). They were Covenant People and they had a Covenant assignment.
B. Amos begins his Sermon with judgment on the enemies of Israel:
1. all the surrounding nations
b. those related to the Jews (Edom by Esau; Ammon, Moab by Lot)
2. her kinsmen, Judea
WORD AND PHRASE STUDY
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:1:1-2
1The words of Amos, who was among the sheepherders from Tekoa, which he envisioned in visions concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.
"The Lord roars from Zion
And from Jerusalem He utters His voice;
And the shepherds' pasture grounds mourn,
And the summit of Carmel dries up."
1:1 "Amos" For the supposed meanings of this rare name see Introduction, I., B.
▣ "the shepherds" This term occurs only one other time in the OT, "sheepmaster," used of Mesha, King of Moab (cf. II Kgs. 3:4). His occupation could also relate to cattle (BDB 133, cf. 7:14). This is an unusual term (BDB 667, KB 719-720) and could refer to the ownership of a special kind of diminutive sheep (BDB 838, cf. 7:15). Amos was (1) following Jewish tradition as a well-to-do businessman (sheep breeder, cf. The Jewish Study Bible, p. 1177) or (2) he was a poor herdsman and itinerant agricultural worker.
The Hebrew consonantal root mqd (KB 719-720) has many meanings.
1. to prick, to puncture
2. to clean, to shine (Arabic, "to free" or "to save").
3. a poor type of sheep
4. money (Talmud, a small coin)
5. speckled (cf. Gen. 30:32)
6. shepherd, herdsman, sheep breeder
7. title for high official (Ugaritic)
Context is crucial! Only context defines words. Cognates are only helpful when the word is rare. In Amos there are several words used to describe his occupation before his call by God.
1. nqd, 1:1
2. bqr, 7:14
3. s'n, 7:15
▣ "Tekoa" The name (BDB 1075) means "to pitch a tent" (cf. Gen. 31:25; Jer: 6:3) or "to blow a trumpet" (cf. Ezek. 7:14). Tekoa is a city in the Judean desert, overlooking the Judean wilderness. It was about five miles south of Bethlehem. Isn't it amazing how many of God's leaders have come from the pastoral lifestyle?
▣ "which he envisioned in visions" The term is literally "saw" (BDB 302, KB 301, Qal PERFECT). It is regularly used of an ecstatic vision (cf. Num. 24:4,16; Isa. 1:1; 2:1,13; Ezek. 12:27; 13:16; Micah 1:1; Hab. 1:1). It came to be one of three words used to designate a prophet (i.e., "seer," e.g., Amos 7:12; II Sam. 24:11; II Kgs. 17:13; I Chr. 21:9; 29:29; II Chr. 9:29; 12:15; 19:2; 29:25,29; 33:19; 35:15; Isa. 29:10,25; 30:10).
The fact that v. 1 mentions both "words" and "visions" may imply the two different kinds of genres that make up the prophecies of vv. 1-6 and 7-9. This is possible, but far from certain.
▣ "the days of Uzziah king of Judah" He was a good king who reigned in Judah from 783-742 b.c. (for chart of possible dates see Appendix). The fact that the king of Judah was mentioned at all shows the prophet's theological orientation toward Jerusalem. The prophets always condemn the splitting of the tribes in 922 b.c. (cf. I Kgs. 12:16-20; II Chr. 10).
▣ "the days of Jeroboam. . .king of Israel" This refers to Jeroboam II (BDB 914), who reigned over the Northern Ten Tribes from 786-746 b.c. (there are so many slightly differing dates, see Appendix). He was a very successful and efficient Monarch. Both Judah and Israel, at this period, were enjoying great prosperity because Assyria had defeated their traditional enemy to the north, Syria. Also, Assyria and Egypt were not expansionists during this period (see Introduction, VI).
▣ "two years before the earthquake" This must have been a very strong earthquake because it is mentioned years later in Zech. 14:5. It may be alluded to in 8:8 and 9:1. Josephus (Antiq. 9.225) tells us that it is related to Uzziah's sin of offering of a sacrifice (cf. II Chr. 26:16-21). This is either (1) a historical statement in an attempt to precisely set the date for Amos' prophecy (Amos 1:1 is the most extensive dating attempt of any book of the OT) or (2) a way of reinforcing the judgment theme of Amos' message from YHWH.
1:2 This begins the first poetic section in Amos. It is a summary of the entire book.
▣ "the Lord roars" The term "roars" (BDB 980, KB 1367, Qal IMPERFECT) was also used of God's voice as thunder, Job 37:3-5 and Jer. 25:30. This seems to refer to God's judgment (cf. 3:8) based on Israel's sins amidst their covenantal knowledge of YHWH (the nations mentioned were all part of David and Solomon's kingdom and, therefore, had some knowledge of YHWH). This is similar to Joel 3:16.
The roar is the climactic moment of a lion's kill, the moment of judgment. It can refer to deliverance, as in Joel 3:16; Hosea 11:10, but in this context of God's judgment. The Shepherd (Ps. 23) has become the aggressive attacker! What a role reversal sin causes!!
For "Lord (YHWH)" see the SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY, following.
▣ "Zion. . .Jerusalem" These two names are in a synonymous, parallel relationship (see SPECIAL TOPIC: HEBREW POETRY at 1:2). The Jews envisioned God as symbolically dwelling between the wings of the Cherubim over the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies of the temple on Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem (cf. Exod. 25:22).
Jerusalem was built on seven hills.
1. Mt. Zion was the hill on which the Jebusite citadel was located, which was not captured until David's day (cf. Josh. 15:63; II Sam. 5:6-10).
2. Mt. Moriah was the hill on which the temple was built (cf. Gen. 22:2; I Chr. 21:1-22; II Chr. 3:1).
The mention of Jerusalem as the place from which God roars was a subtle way to reject the golden calves which Jeroboam I set up (at Bethel and Dan) in Israel. God dwelt in Judah's temple (cf. 9:11), not Israel's shrines (cf. 4:4; 5:5; 8:14)!
The original meaning of both Zion (BDB 851) and Jerusalem (BDB 436) is uncertain.
▣ "the shepherd's pasture grounds mourn, and the summit of Carmel dries up" God's judgment on mankind's sin affects nature (cf. Gen. 3; Deut. 27-28; Rom. 8:18-25; the seals and bowls judgments of Revelation). God uses nature to get mankind's attention (e.g., vv. 1c; 4:6-13; Ps. 19:1-6).
▣ "Carmel" Carmel was a mountain range in northern Israel that runs into the Mediterranean. It's name meant "vineyard of God" (BDB 501). It was proverbial for its lush vegetation (BDB 502).
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:1:3-5
3Thus says the Lord,
"For three transgressions of Damascus and for four I will not revoke its punishment,
Because they threshed Gilead with implements of sharp iron.
4So I will send fire upon the house of Hazael
And it will consume the citadels of Ben-hadad.
5I will also break the gate bar of Damascus,
And cut off the inhabitant from the valley of Aven,
And him who holds the scepter, from Beth-eden;
So the people of Aram will go exiled to Kir,"
Says the Lord.
1:3-2:3 This is a literary unit which serves a theological purpose.
1. YHWH is God of the whole earth.
2. All who sin must face His wrath.
3. His people were sinning and, even more so, because they were covenant people (cf. Luke 12:48).
This unit must have been read or heard with glee as Israelites gladly welcomed God's judgment on these neighboring nations; yes, even Judah (cf. 2:4-5). But suddenly, and surprisingly, Amos turns in climactic fashion, to Israel's sin (cf. 2:6-6:14). Their prosperity, military power, and land expansion were not a sign of God's covenantal blessing (cf. Deut. 27-29). Amos, the enforcer of Moses' Covenant, demands reckoning! The Day of the Lord would not be a blessing, but a curse (cf. 5:18-20)!
1:3 "Thus says the Lord" This prophetic formula was a way of showing that the message was not the personal opinion of the prophet, but the very word of God. How much of the message was from the prophet (specific vocabulary, literary form) is uncertain. The mood or manner of inspiration is uncertain and may have variations, but the important truth is that it is a message from God. This message, though given in a certain language, historical situation, and culture, has a relevance to all cultures and times. Hermeneutically every passage has one meaning—that which the original inspired author meant to say—but many applications or significances related to the reader/hearer's historical and cultural situation. However, the application must be directly related to the original author's intent/message!
In this context the phrase announces the judgment of YHWH on nations and peoples (cf. Jer. 47:2; 48:1; Ezek. 25:3; 30:2; Amos 1:3; 2:1).
▣ "For three transgressions of Damascus and for four" This is a standard introductory phrase in Amos (cf. 1:3,6,9,11,13; 2:1,4,6). It has also been found in other Near Eastern literature. It means that they sinned again and again.
The term "four" was used often in the ancient Near East.
1. four phases of the moon
2. four divisions of the year (NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 495)
In the OT itself it represented
1. compass directions (i.e., a man facing east)
2. wind directions (e.g., Dan. 7:2; 8:8)
3. corners of the earth (e.g., Isa. 11:12)
From these came its implied meaning of completeness or fullness. Also the numbers three and four equals seven, which is another OT way to show completeness; the sins of these nations were full/complete!
The term "transgressions" (BDB 833) is one of several Hebrew words which are used to describe sin and rebellion. In Amos this term takes on a sense of social sins (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 708). These nations rebel by attacking neighbors and relatives. Their actions show that they do not know YHWH. These nations were part of the Davidic empire and had been exposed to YHWH. The nations will be a part of a restored Davidic kingdom (cf. 9:11-15)!
Prophets often spoke of YHWH's judgment on the nations (cf. Isa. 13-23; Jer. 46-51; Ezek. 25-32). The nation of Syria is also known as Aram with Damascus as its capital. The capital stands for the nation as a whole.
NASB, NRSV"I will not revoke its punishment"
NKJV"I will not turn away its punishment"
TEV"I will certainly punish them"
NJB"I have made my decree and will not relent"
The NEGATED VERB (BDB 996, KB 1427, Hiphil IMPERFECT) is the usual VERB in the prophets to describe "repentance." In this context it refers to God. The only vocabulary available to us to describe God relates to humans. God is an eternal Spirit. We use human words to describe Him (anthropomorphisms), but He is far beyond our ability to describe.
1:3 "they threshed Gilead with implements of sharp iron" "They" refers to the Syrians.
The VERB (BDB 190, KB 218,Qal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT) refers to an agricultural procedure of separating grain from its husk (cf. Deut. 25:4). It can be used metaphorically as II Kgs. 13:7; Isa. 21:10; Jer. 50:11; and Hosea 10:11 show. It is used of God's judgment (e.g., Micah 4:13 and Hab. 3:12).
Here it could also be metaphorical, but because of the Septuagint's translation of II Sam. 12:31, it may be literal. Whether metaphorical or literal it speaks of Syrian abuses of Israelites (possibly related to II Kgs. 13:1-9).
▣ "Gilead" This name (BDB 166) refers to the northern trans-jordan area between the Arnon and Jabbok Rivers that was given to the sons of Jacob, Reuben, and Gad. The specific atrocities of Syria (Aram) may relate to II Kgs. 8:28-29 or 10:32-33.
1:4 "I will send fire" The VERB (BDB 1018, KB 1511) is a Piel PERFECT and is parallel to "consume," "break," and "cut off." God will destroy the fortifications and dynasty of the house of Hazael (Syria, Aram). Fire is a symbol of the judgment of God on wickedness (e.g., Isa. 30:27; Jer. 21:14; Ezek. 20:47-48; Zeph. 1:18; 3:8; Mal. 4:1). See SPECIAL TOPIC: FIRE at 7:4.
▣ "Hazael" This was the usurper monarch of Syria (BDB 303, cf. II Kgs. 8:7-15). He reigned from 842-796 b.c.(?). He was a powerful military adversary to Assyria's western expansion. Syria was invaded several times, but Damascus was not taken (i.e., 841, 837, and possibly 836 b.c.)
Once Assyrian pressure was lessened Hazael attacked his southern neighbors.
1. trans-jordan area, II Kgs. 10:32-33
2. Philistia, II Kgs. 12:17
3. Judah, II Kgs. 12:17-18
▣ "citadels" The term (BDB 74) is translated in various ways:
2. guardroom of the palace or temple
The Akkadian loanword, b'rh, is used as a parallel in the Post-Exilic literature (e.g., of forts in II Chr. 17:12; 27:4 and of the temple in I Chr. 29:1; Neh. 2:8).
▣ "Ben-haddad" This (BDB 122, cf. II Kgs. 13:3,24-25) is the son of Hazael (797-775 b.c.?). Probably his father gave him this name (in history as Ben Hadad III) because it became the common name (dynastic title) of many Syrian monarchs, like Pharaoh in Egypt or Caesar in Rome.
It is also possible that it reflects the worship of the storm god, Hadad (Ba'al or Rimmon, cf. II Kgs. 5:18). In this case it would be a condemnation on idolatry.
1:5 "the gate bar of Damascus" Literally this refers to the lock on the main gate, a large wooden beam (or sometimes a metal bar, cf. I Kgs. 4:13), which was placed horizontally across two wooden doors. Metaphorically it refers to the destruction and exile of Syria (Aram) as a nation (cf. TEV).
NRSV, TEV"the inhabitants"
JB"the one enthroned"
This is a Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLE MASCULINE SINGULAR (BDB 442, KB 444). It is obvious there is a parallel between this term and
1. v. 5c, "him who holds the scepter"
2. v. 8b, "him who holds the scepter"
The Rotherham's Emphasized Bible has in the footnote, "him that is seated = that reigneth" (p. 873).
▣ "the Valley of Aven" The term "Aven" (BDB 19) can mean
It is used in several ways in Amos-Hosea.
1. a place of idolatry (here)
2. a reference to Bethel by means of a Hebrew word play (cf. Hos. 4:15; 5:8; 10:5,8)
3. a reference to wickedness (cf. Hosea 6:8; 10:8; 12:11)
4. nothingness (i.e., idolatry as vanity, cf. Amos 5:5)
Here it refers to a place somewhere in Syria. The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 284, notes that it is a Jewish word play on Baalbek, which was called Heliopolis during the Greek period. McComiskey also asserts that because of the contact between Syria and Egypt this city may possibly have taken on the name of an Egyptian city, 'On (cf. the Septuagint).
The site is geographically uncertain, but many believe that it refers to the Bukaa valley (cf. the Septuagint).
▣ "him who holds the scepter" Originally the term "scepter" (BDB 986) referred to a wooden implement of war. Leaders were those who fought well. Their wooden weapon became a symbol of authority, rule, or power. It is used of the kings of pagan nations in Isa. 14:5; Amos 1:5,8; Zech. 10:11, but of God's power in Isa. 10:5 and His Messiah's power in Isa. 11:4.
▣ "Beth-eden" This name means "house of pleasure" (CONSTRUCT BDB 108 and 112). Its geographical location is uncertain, but may refer to (1) a kingdom north of Aram on the bank of the Euphrates River (time of Assurnasirpal II and Shalmaneser III) or (2) Baalbek in the Bukaa Valley (time of Tiglath-pileser III).
▣ "So the people of Syria will be exiled to Kir" We learn from 9:7 that this was their original homeland; they will be exiled to where they started from (BDB 885, cf. II Kgs. 16:9). However, its location is unknown (cf. Isa. 22:6). Most identify it as a location in Elam.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:1:6-8
6Thus says the Lord,
"For three transgressions of Gaza and for four
I will not revoke its punishment,
Because they deported an entire population
To deliver it up to Edom.
7So I will send fire upon the wall of Gaza
And it will consume her citadels.
8I will also cut off the inhabitant from Ashdod,
And him who holds the scepter, from Ashkelon;
I will even unleash My power upon Ekron,
And the remnant of the Philistines will perish,"
Says the Lord God.
1:6 "Gaza" This city (BDB 738) was a way of referring to the nation of Philistia. They were sea peoples from the Aegean Islands who tried to invade Egypt, but were defeated and settled on the southwestern coast of Palestine around 1200 b.c. They brought Iron Age technology with them and established control over a large area of the coastland. In vv. 6-8 four of their five major city-states are mentioned, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron, and Gaza.
▣ "because they deported an entire population" Apparently the descendants of Esau were actively involved in purchasing Hebrew slaves taken by the Philistines. Entire communities (or treaty communities) were captured and sold (cf. Joel 3:3-8).
▣ "Edom" Edom, Moab, and Ammon were relatives of the Jews. They lived in the southern trans-jordan.
1:7 "him who holds the scepter" David Allan Hubbard, Joel and Amos (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, pp. 133 and 136), makes the historical point that Amos is accurate regarding:
1. the Philistine cities were royal city-states surrounded by other cities ruled by those who bore the scepter of the city-state monarch (v. 7)
2. the Ammonites had a monarch and his officials (cf. v. 15; Hosea 7:3,5,7,16; 8:4)
1:8 "the remnant of the Philistines will perish" The Philistines (BDB 814) were a traditional enemy of Judah from the time of Joshua to David. They will be completely destroyed as a nation and as a people.
▣ "the Lord God" This is literally Adon YHWH. Since both are translated "lord," when they occur together YHWH is translated all capitals "God." See SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY at 1:2.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:1:9-10
9Thus says the Lord,
"For three transgressions of Tyre and for four
I will not revoke its punishment,
Because they delivered up an entire population to Edom
And did not remember the covenant of brotherhood.
10So I will send fire upon the wall of Tyre,
And it will consume her citadels."
1:9 "Tyre" This (BDB 862) refers to the nation of Phoenicia, which seems to have been made up racially of Canaanites and the Sea Peoples (Aegean Sea). This nation became the source of the fertility worship of both Ba'al and Asherah, which permeated the Northern Ten Tribes through the influence of Jezebel (cf. I Kgs. 16:31-33; 18:19,21).
▣ "because they delivered up an entire population to Edom" Homer mentions Tyre's slave trade in his Odyssey 4:288ff; 15:473ff.
▣ "did not remember the covenant of brotherhood" This refers to some type of treaty, possibly the precedent of one that was made with Solomon (cf. II Sam. 5: 11; I Kgs. 5:1-18; 9: 11- 14). It also may refer to the unnatural behavior of selling one's neighbor into slavery. All of the sins mentioned in this section deal with mankind's inhumanity toward his fellowman.
1:10 "I will send fire upon the wall of Tyre,
And it will consume her citadels" Tyre (capital of Phoenicia) was an island fortress that was almost impregnable. However, during Alexander the Great's move through Palestine in 332 b.c., after a seven-month siege, the city fell when the enemy built a causeway out of the rubble of the destroyed mainland city. We learn from historical documents that 6,000 were killed, 2,000 were crucified or impaled and 30,000 were sold into slavery.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:1:11-12
11Thus says the Lord,
"For three transgressions of Edom and for four
I will not revoke its punishment,
Because he pursued his brother with the sword,
While he stifled his compassion;
His anger also tore continually,
And he maintained his fury forever.
12So I will send fire upon Teman
And it will consume the citadels of Bozrah."
1:11 "Edom" This (BDB 10) refers to near relatives of the Israelites through Esau, Gen. 25:19-26; 36:1-19. Edom and Israel were always at odds. Edom becomes a symbol of broken family bonds and covenants. She is often condemned in the prophets (cf. Isa. 34:5-17; 63:1-6; Jer. 49:7-22; Lam. 4:21-22; Ezek. 25:12-14; 35:1-15; Mal. 1:2-4).
Petra was its capital (cf. Ps. 137:7; Ezek. 25:12-14; Obad. 10-15; Mal. 1:2-4). It was located east of Judah in the trans-jordan region (modern Jordan).
This term (BDB 933) can also refer to a treaty partner (i.e., "ally," NIV footnote and NET Bible).
▣ "His anger also tore continually,
And he maintained his fury forever"
These two poetic lines are parallel. "His anger" refers to the settled, continual anger of the Edomites against the Israelis (cf. NEB). Again, God's judgment comes because of sins against people, in this case relatives.
1:12 "Teman" This (BDB 412) was a northern district of Edom (cf. Jer. 49:7,20; Obad. 9) whose capital was Bozrah.
▣ "Bozrah" This (B DB 131) refers to one of the larger northern cities of Edom located at a major oasis on "the King's Highway" (trans-jordan trade route from the Gulf of Aqaba north to Syria). It was a city of great antiquity (cf. Gen. 36:33; I Chr. 1:44).
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:1:13-15
13 Thus says the Lord,
"For three transgressions of the sons of Ammon and for four
I will not revoke its punishment,
Because they ripped open the pregnant women of Gilead
In order to enlarge their borders.
14So I will kindle a fire on the wall of Rabbah
And it will consume her citadels
Amid war cries on the day of battle,
And a storm on the day of tempest.
15Their king will go into exile,
He and his princes together," says the Lord.
1:13 "Ammon" This (BDB 769) is also a relative of the Israelis through Lot (cf. Gen. 19:30-38). The Israelites were not to confront them on their exodus because they were relatives (cf. Deut. 2:19). Ammon was located in the trans-jordan area between the Arnon and Jabbok Rivers.
▣ "Because they ripped open the pregnant women of Gilead" Gilead (BDB 166) is in the northern trans-jordan area. There is no historical reference to this specific act, but this practice was well known (cf. II Kgs. 8:12; 15:16; Hosea 13:16). However, the judgment of God falls on all of these nations because of their violent war practices.
▣ "In order to enlarge their borders" This slaughter of innocent women and children was not related to holy war, as was the Israeli attack on Jericho (cf. Josh. 6), but was simply motivated by greed for more land.
1:14 "Rabbah" This term means "the great" (BDB 913). This title was used of a city of Ammon, located at the headwaters of the Jabbok River (cf. Deut. 3:11; II Sam. 12:26; 17:27).
NASB, NJB"war cries"
This term (BDB 929) has a large semantical field:
1. raise a shout
a. for attack
b. for victory
c. for worship
d. for destruction
2. give a blast
Often a battle cry is linked to a trumpet blast, as in Josh. 6:5,10,16,20. Every nation had its own war cry (cf. 2:2; I Sam. 17:20,52, also see Roland deVaux, Ancient Israel, vol. 1, pp. 9,254). Israel's was linked to YHWH (cf. Jdgs. 7:20-21).
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