Exodus 20

Exodus 20


Then GodI spokeII allIII these words:IV

Notes on verse 1

I “God” = Elohim.
II “spoke” = dabar. This is generally to speak, answer, declare, or command. It might mean to arrange and so to speak in a figurative sense as arranging words.
III “all” = kol. From kalal (to complete). This is all or every.
IV “words” = dabar. Related to “spoke” in v1. From dabar (see note II above). This is speech, a word, a matter, an affair, charge, command, message, promise, purpose, report, request. It is a word, which implies things that are spoken of in a wide sense.

2 I am the LordV your God, who broughtVI you out of the landVII of Egypt,VIII out of the houseIX of slavery;X 

Notes on verse 2

V “Lord” = YHVH. From havah (to be, become) or hayah (to come to pass, become, be). This is the name of the God of Israel, the self-existent and eternal one, the tetragrammaton. This pronunciation has been lost to time so “Lord” is generally used in its place.
VI “brought” = yatsa. This is to go or come out, bring forth, appear. It is to go out in a literal or figurative sense.
VII “land” = erets. Root may mean to be firm. This is earth, ground, field land, or country.
VIII “Egypt” = Mitsrayim. Perhaps from matsor (besieged or fortified place, bulwark, entrenchment; something hemmed in; a siege or distress or fastness); from tsur (to confine, besiege, to cramp). This is Egypt.
IX “house” = bayit. Probably from banah (to build, make, set up, obtain children; to build literally or figuratively). This is house, court, family, palace, temple.
X “slavery” = ebed. Literally, “house of slaves.” From abad (to work, serve, compel; any kind of work; used causatively, can mean to enslave or keep in bondage). This is a servant, slave, or bondservant.

you shall haveXI no otherXII godsXIII before me.XIV

Notes on verse 3

XI “have” = hayah. Related to “Lord” in v2. See note V above.
XII “other” = acher. From achar (to be behind, delay, be late, procrastinate, continue). This is following, next, strange, other.
XIII “gods” = elohim. Same as “God” in v1. See note I above.
XIV “me” = paneh. From panah (to turn, face, appear). This is face in a literal or figurative sense. It could be face, presence, anger, respect. It can also be used of God to indicate divine favor or presence.

You shall not makeXV for yourself an idol,XVI whether in the formXVII of anythingXVIII

Notes on verse 4a

XV “make” = asah. This is to make, do, act, appoint, become in many senses.
XVI “idol” = pesel. From pasal (to hew, carve; used for wood or stone). This is an idol or image.
XVII “form” = temunah. 10x in OT. From the same as min (kind, sort, species). This is something that has been apportioned or fashioned. It can be an embodiment or shape. It can also figuratively be a favor that manifests.
XVIII “anything” = kol. Same as “all” in v1. See note III above.

that is in heavenXIX above,XX or that is on the earthXXI beneath,XXII or that is in the waterXXIII underXXIV the earth. 

Notes on verse 4b

XIX “heaven” = shamayim. Root may mean being lofty. This is sky, the air, or heaven. It is in a dual noun form so this might refer to the part of the sky where the clouds move on the one hand and the part beyond that where the sun, moon, and stars are on the other hand.
XX “above” = maal. From alah (to go up, ascend, be high, be a priority; to arise in a literal or figurative sense). This is the upper part, forward, high above, upwards, greater, heaven, or exceedingly.
XXI “earth” = erets. Same as “land” in v2. See note VII above.
XXII “beneath” = tachat. This is underneath, below, the bottom, instead of.
XXIII “water” = mayim. This is water, waters, or waterway in a general sense. Figuratively, it can also mean juice, urine, or semen.
XXIV “under” = tachat. Same as “beneath” in v4. See note XXII above.

You shall not bow downXXV to them or worshipXXVI them; for I the Lord your God am a jealousXXVII God,XXVIII punishingXXIX childrenXXX

Notes on verse 5a

XXV “bow down” = shachah. This is to bow down, make a humble entreaty, to do homage to royalty or to God.
XXVI “worship” = abad. Related to “slavery” in v2. See note X above.
XXVII “jealous” = qanna. 6x in OT– all in the Torah, all referring to God as a jealous God. From the same as qinah (zeal, jealousy, envy, anger, rivalry) OR from qana (to be jealous, zealous, envious). This is jealous.
XXVIII “God” = El. Related to “God” in v1. See note I above.
XXIX “punishing” = paqad. This is to attend to or visit – can be used for a friendly or violent encounter. So, it can be to oversee, care for, avenge, or charge.
XXX “children” = ben. Related to “house” in v2. From banah (see note IX above). This is son, age, child. It is son in a literal or figurative sense.

for the iniquityXXXI of parents,XXXII to the thirdXXXIII and the fourthXXXIV generation of those who rejectXXXV me, 

Notes on verse 5b

XXXI “iniquity” = avon. Perhaps related to avah (to bend, twist, be amiss). This is sin, mischief, guilt, fault, punishment for iniquity, or moral evil.
XXXII “parents” = ab. This is father, chief, or ancestor. It is father in a literal or figurative sense.
XXXIII “third” = shillesh. 5x in OT. From the same as shalosh (three, fork, triad). This is third or relating to the third. Here, it refers to a great-grandchild.
XXXIV “fourth” = ribbea. 4x in OT. From the same as arba (four); from raba (to make square or be four-sided). This is fourth or related to the fourth. Here, it would be a great, great grandchild.
XXXV “reject” = sane. This is to hate, an enemy. It is a personal hatred and not an abstract one.

but showingXXXVI steadfast loveXXXVII to the thousandthXXXVIII generation of those who loveXXXIX me and keepXL my commandments.XLI

Notes on verse 6

XXXVI “showing” = asah. Same as “make” in v4. See note XV above.
XXXVII “steadfast love” = chesed. From chasad (being good, kind, merciful; may mean bowing one’s neck as is done in the presence of an equal for courtesy’s sake; so, if one in a superior position is treating you like an equal, that is what is captured here). This is favor, goodness, kindness, loving kindness, pity, reproach, or a good deed. When done by God to humanity, this is mercy/loving kindness. When done by humanity to God, it is piety.
XXXVIII “thousandth” = eleph. Perhaps from the same as eleph (herd, cattle); from alaph (to learn, speak, associate with). This is thousand.
XXXIX “love” = aheb. This is to love, beloved, friend. It is to have affection for sexually or otherwise.
XL “keep” = shamar. This is to keep, watch, or preserve. It means to guard something or to protect it as a thorny hedge protects something.
XLI “commandments” = mitsvah. From tsavah (to charge, command, order, enjoin). This is a commandment, law, ordinance obligation, or tradition. It is something commanded whether by God or by a human authority. This term is sometimes used collectively to refer to the Law.

You shall not makeXLII wrongfulXLIII use of the nameXLIV of the Lord your God,XLV for the Lord will not acquitXLVI anyone who misusesXLVII his name.

Notes on verse 7

XLII “make” = nasa. This is to lift in a broad sense, literally and figuratively. So it could be to carry, take, or arise. It could also be bring forth, advance, accept.
XLIII “wrongful” = shav. Perhaps from the same as sho (ruin, desolation, storm; from a root that means rushing over – hence a storm and hence devastation). This is emptiness, false, worthless, deceit. It can also refer to evil, guile, idolatry, or something being in vain.
XLIV “name” = shem. May be from sum (to put, place, set). This is name, fame, renown. A name was thought to indicate something essential about a person – something about their individuality. So, this word can also mean honor, authority, or character.
XLV “God” = Elohim. Same as “God” in v1. See note I above.
XLVI “acquit” = naqah. This is to be empty, cleanse, acquit, blameless, immune, innocent. It is to be clean or to make clean in a literal or figurative sense. It can also be bare in a negative sense, destroyed.
XLVII “misuses” = nasashav. Nasa is the same as “make” in v7. See note XLII above. Shav is the same as “wrongful” in v7. See note XLIII above.

RememberXLVIII the sabbathXLIX day,L and keep it holy.LI 

Notes on verse 8

XLVIII “remember” = zakar. This is to remember, to mark something so that it can be recalled, to be mindful of, to mention.
XLIX “sabbath” = shabbat. From shabath (to rest, stop, repose, cease working; by implication, to celebrate). This is sabbath, literally meaning rest or intermission.
L “day” = yom. Root may mean being hot. This is the day in a literal or figurative sense. It can also mean birth, age, daylight, continually or other references to time.
LI “keep it holy” = qadash. From qodesh (set apart and so sacred; God is different from us and so God is holy/set apart; things we dedicate to God’s service are set apart for God and so they, too, are holy). This is set apart, consecrated, hallowed, sanctified. This is something or someone that is set apart for a holy purpose or use – ceremonially or morally clean.

SixLII days you shall laborLIII and doLIV all your work.LV 10 But the seventhLVI day is a sabbath to the Lord your God;LVII you shall not do anyLVIII work—

Notes on verses 9-10a

LII “six” = shesh. This is six. Figuratively, it can be a surplus since it is one more than the number of fingers on the hand.
LIII “labor” = abad. Same as “worship” in v5. See note XXVI above.
LIV “do” = asah. Same as “make” in v4. See note XV above.
LV “work” = melakah. From the same as malak (messenger, an angel, or a deputy; human messengers literally or for prophets, priests, or teachers as messengers of God; also supernatural messengers i.e. angels). Properly, this is a deputyship or some kind of work. It can also be the product that comes from labor.
LVI “seventh” = shebi. From sheba (seven – the number of perfection/sacred fullness). This is seventh.
LVII “God” = Elohim. Same as “God” in v1. See note I above.
LVIII “any” = kol. Same as “all” in v1. See note III above.

you, your sonLIX or your daughter,LX your maleLXI or female slave,LXII your livestock,LXIII or the alien residentLXIV in your towns.LXV 

Notes on verse 10b

LIX “son” = ben. Same as “children” in v5. See note XXX above.
LX “daughter” = bat. Related to “house” in v2 & “children” in v5. From ben (see note XXX above). This is daughter in a literal or figurative sense.
LXI “male” = ebed. Same as “slavery” in v2. See note X above.
LXII “female slave” = amah.  This is female servant or slave, handmaid.
LXIII “livestock” = behemah. This is animal or cattle. It is often used of large quadrupeds.
LXIV “alien resident” = ger. From gur (to abide or sojourn; to leave the road to lodge or for any other reason). This is sojourner, guest, stranger, foreigner.
LXV “towns” = shaar. May be related to sha’ar (to calculate or reckon; may come from a root that means to open up or split). This is a gate, door, or other opening like a port.

11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea,LXVI and all that is in them, but restedLXVII the seventh day; thereforeLXVIII the Lord blessedLXIX the sabbath day and consecratedLXX it.

Notes on verse 11

LXVI “sea” = yam. Root may mean to roar. This is the sea, often referring to the Mediterranean. It comes from the root in the sense of the roar of crashing surf. This word is sometimes used for rivers or other sources of water. It can mean to the west or to the south.
LXVII “rested” = nuach. This is to rest, calm, camp, free, place, remain, satisfy, settle, station, or wait. It is rest and so implies settling down in a literal or figurative sense. This is perhaps the root verb of the name “Noah.”
LXVIII “therefore” = ken. Perhaps from kun (properly, in a perpendicular position; literally, to establish, fix, fasten, prepare; figuratively, it is certainty, to be firm, faithfulness, render sure or prosperous). This is to set upright. Generally used figuratively to mean thus, so, afterwards, rightly so.
LXIX “blessed” = barak. This is to kneel, to bless. It is blessing God as part of worship and adoration or blessing humans to help them. It can be used as a euphemism to say curse God.
LXX “consecrated” = qadash. Same as “keep it holy” in v8. See note LI above.

12 HonorLXXI your fatherLXXII and your mother,LXXIII so that your days may be longLXXIV in the landLXXV that the Lord your GodLXXVI is givingLXXVII you.

Notes on verse 12

LXXI “honor” = kabad. To be heavy, weighty, or severe. It can also be positive abounding in, rich, or honorable. The Hebrew word for “glory,” kabod, is taken from this root.
LXXII “father” = ab. Same as “parents” in v5. See note XXXII above.
LXXIII “mother” = em. This is a mother as binding a family together or a breeding female animal. It could be mother in a literal or figurative sense.
LXXIV “may be long” = arak. This is to continue, lengthen prolong, delay, or endure. It is being long or causing something to be long in a literal or figurative sense.
LXXV “land” = adamah. From the same as adam (man, humankind); perhaps from ‘adom (to be red). This is ground, earth, soil as red, or land.
LXXVI “God” = Elohim. Same as “God” in v1. See note I above.
LXXVII “giving” = natan. This is to give, put, set, offer. It is to give literally or figuratively.

13 You shall not murder.LXXVIII

14 You shall not commit adultery.LXXIX

15 You shall not steal.LXXX

16 You shall not bearLXXXI falseLXXXII witnessLXXXIII against your neighbor.LXXXIV

Notes on verses 13-16

LXXVIII “murder” = ratsach. Properly, this is to dash something to pieces. It is to kill a person, but it is used particularly (though not exclusively) for murder.
LXXIX “commit adultery” = naaph. This is to commit adultery or, figuratively, to be an apostate.
LXXX “steal” = ganab. This is to steal in a stealthy way rather than through violence. It can also mean to deceive. There is a Yiddish word ganef that derives from this root. It means thief or scoundrel.
LXXXI “bear” = anah. This is answer, respond, announce, sing, shout, or testify. It means to pay attention, which implies responding and, by extension, starting to talk. Used in a specific sense for singing, shouting, testifying, etc.
LXXXII “false” = sheqer. This is deception, lie, or disappointment. It can also be something that is vain or wrongfully.
LXXXIII “witness” = ed. From ud (to admonish, repeat, duplicate, testify, restore, record, relieve). This is a witness, testimony, or one who records testimony. It can also refer to a prince.
LXXXIV “neighbor” = rea. From raah (to associate with). This is the same as neighbor in Leviticus 19:18 “love your neighbor as yourself.” This is friend, companion, fellow, neighbor. It is someone with whom you associate, whether more or less close.

17 You shall not covetLXXXV your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife,LXXXVI or male or female slave, or ox,LXXXVII or donkey,LXXXVIII or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Notes on verse 17

LXXXV “covet” = chamad. This is to desire or delight in someone or something. It can also mean something that is precious or coveted. So, it can also refer to lust.
LXXXVI “wife” = ishshah. From ish (man); perhaps from enosh (human, humankind, mortal); from anash (to be weak, sick, or frail). This is woman, wife, or female.
LXXXVII “ox” = shor. Perhaps from shur (to travel, turn, journey; travelling like a prostitute or a merchant). This is bull, ox, head of cattle, cow.
LXXXVIII “donkey” = chamor. From chamar (to be red, blush). This is a male donkey.

18 When all the peopleLXXXIX witnessedXC the thunderXCI and lightning,XCII

Notes on verse 18a

LXXXIX “people” = am. From amam (to darken, hide, associate; creating shadows by huddling together). This is people or nation. It can be used specifically for a tribe, collectively of troops or armies, or figuratively to refer to a flock of animals.
XC “witnessed” = raah. This is to see in a literal or figurative sense so stare, advise, think, view.
XCI “thunder” = qol. This is a sound, used often for human voices. Also used when God speaks or angels, animals or instruments. It can be a cry or a noise, thunder or earthquakes and so on.
XCII “lightning” = lappid. 14x in OT. Root may mean to shine. This is torch, lamp, or flash of lightning.

the soundXCIII of the trumpet,XCIV and the mountainXCV smoking,XCVI

Notes on verse 18b

XCIII “sound” = qol. Same as “thunder” in v18. See note XCI above.
XCIV “trumpet” = shophar. From shaphar (being beautiful or lovely). This is a ram’s horn, trumpet, or cornet. A shofar is still blown at Jewish festivals such as Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish new year celebration).
XCV “mountain” = har. From harar (hill or mountain). This is mountain, hill, hilly region.
XCVI “smoking” = ashen. 2x in OT. From the same as ashan (smoke, vapor, dust, or anger); perhaps from ashan (to smoke or burn in a literal or figurative sense; to be angry). This is smoldering or smoky.

theyXCVII were afraidXCVIII and trembledXCIX and stoodC at a distance,CI 

Notes on verse 18c

XCVII “they” = am. Same as “people” in v18. See note LXXXIX above.
XCVIII “were afraid” = raah. Same as “witnessed” in v18. See note XC above.
XCIX “trembled” = rua. This is to waver in a literal or figurative sense. So, it could be to tremble, quiver, totter. It could also refer to a fugitive.
C “stood” = amad. This is to stand up in a literal or figurative sense. So it can be establish, continue, endure, take a stand, act, be a servant, stand still, remain, stand against an enemy.
CI “at a distance” = rachoq. From rachaq (to widen, become distant, cast, or remove in a literal or figurative sense). This is distant or far, whether of space or of time.

19 and said to Moses,CII “You speak to us, and we will listen;CIII but do not let GodCIV speak to us, orCV we will die.”CVI 

Notes on verse 19

CII “Moses” = Mosheh. From mashah (to pull out in a literal or figurative sense, to draw out) OR from Egyptian mes or mesu (child, son i.e. child of…). This is Moses – the one drawn out from the water, which is to say, rescued. If derived from the Egyptian, his name would share a root with Rameses and Thutmose.
CIII “listen” = shama. This is to hear, call, consent, or consider. It implies listening intelligently, giving attention, and, because of these two factors, obedience and action are often implied.
CIV “God” = Elohim. Same as “God” in v1. See note I above.
CV “or” = pen. Related to “me” in v3. Perhaps from panah (see note XIV above). This is lest, if, or.
CVI “die” = mut. This is to die in a literal or figurative sense. It can also refer to being a dead body.

20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid;CVII for GodCVIII has comeCIX only toCX testCXI you

Notes on verse 20a

CVII “be afraid” = yare. This is to fear, be afraid, dreadful. It can also refer to fearful reverence – to fear in a moral sense is to say to revere, respect.
CVIII “God” = Elohim. Same as “God” in v1. See note I above.
CIX “come” = bo. This is to enter, come in, advance, fulfill, bring offerings, enter to worship, attack. It can also have a sexual connotation.
CX “to” = abur. From abar (to pass over, pass through, or pass by; cross over or to alienate; used for transitions). This is for, so that, on account of. Properly, it means crossed.
CXI “test” = nasah. This is to test, prove, try, tempt, or attempt.

and toCXII putCXIII the fearCXIV of him upon youCXV so that you do notCXVI sin.”CXVII 

Notes on verse 20b

CXII “to” = abur. Same as “to” in v20. See note CX above.
CXIII “put” = hayah. Same as “have” in v3. See note XI above.
CXIV “fear” = yirah. Related to “be afraid” in v20. From yare (see note CVII above). This is fear or reverence.
CXV “you” = paneh. Same as “me” in v3. See note XIV above.
CXVI “so that…not” = bilti. From balah (to grow old, wear out, consume, waste, enjoy, fail, decay). This is nothing, not, lest, or except. From its root, it means “a failure of” – used for negative particles.
CXVII “sin” = chata. This is properly to miss, and so figuratively it is used for sinning, bearing the blame. It implies a forfeiture or loss of something.

21 Then the people stood at a distance, while Moses drew nearCXVIII to the thick darknessCXIX where GodCXX was.

22 The Lord said to Moses: Thus you shall say to the Israelites:CXXI “You have seenCXXII for yourselves that I spoke with you from heaven. 

Notes on verses 21-22

CXVIII “drew near” = nagash. This is to draw, bring, or come near. It is approaching for any reason – as an attack on an enemy, in order to worship, to make an argument. It can also be used as a euphemism for sex.
CXIX “thick darkness” = araphel. 15x in OT. From araph (to droop, drip, drop). This is a cloud or deep darkness. It is gloom or gloomy as the sky being lowered.
CXX “God” = Elohim. Same as “God” in v1. See note I above.
CXXI “Israelites” = ben + Yisrael. Literally, “children of Israel.” Ben is the same as “children” in v5. See note XXX above. Yisrael is related to “God” in v1 & “God” in v5. From sarah (to persist, exert oneself, contend, persevere, wrestle, prevail) + el (see note I above). This is Israel, meaning God strives or one who strives with God; new name for Jacob and for his offspring. This refers to the people and to the land.
CXXII “seen” = raah. Same as “witnessed” in v18. See note XC above.

23 You shall not make gods of silverCXXIII alongside me, nor shall you make for yourselves gods of gold.CXXIV 24 You need make for me only an altarCXXV of earthCXXVI and sacrificeCXXVII on it your burnt offeringsCXXVIII

Notes on verses 23-24a

CXXIII “silver” = keseph. From kasaph (to long for, be greedy; to become pale). This is silver or money.
CXXIV “gold” = zahab. Root may mean to shimmer. This is gold or something that has the color of gold like oil. It can also refer to a clear sky – to good weather.
CXXV “altar” = mizbeach. From zabach (to kill, slay, offer; slaughtering an animal to offer as a sacrifice). This is an altar.
CXXVI “earth” = adamah. Same as “land” in v12. See note LXXV above.
CXXVII “sacrifice” = zabach. Related to “altar” in v24. See note CXXV above.
CXXVIII “burnt offerings” = olah. Related to “above” in v4. From alah (see note XX above). This is a step, stairs, or some kind of ascent. It is also used for whole burnt offerings, being the offering in which the whole things is burned and rises as smoke. Burnt offerings were the least common of the offerings: most were eaten, shared with the priest and the one bringing the offering.

and your offerings of well-being,CXXIX your sheepCXXX and your oxen;CXXXI in everyCXXXII placeCXXXIII where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you. 

Notes on verse 24b

CXXIX “offerings of well-being” = shelem. From shalam (to make amends, finish, be safe, be friendly, to be complete or sound). This is a peace offering or a sacrifice of well-being. It was a voluntary offering given when one celebrated thanksgiving, alliance, or friendship.
CXXX “sheep” = tson. This is a flock of sheep and goats.
CXXXI “oxen” = baqar. From baqar (to plow, break forth; figuratively, to inquire, inspect, consider). This is cattle – an animal used for plowing.
CXXXII “every” = kol. Same as “all” in v1. See note III above.
CXXXIII “place” = maqom. From qum(to arise, stand, accomplish, establish, abide; rising against, getting up after being sick or asleep, arising from one state to another, becoming powerful, or rising for action; standing in a figurative sense). This is a standing, which is to say a spot or space a place. It can also refer to a locality or a physical/mental condition. HaMaqom is also a Jewish name for God – the place, i.e. the Omnipresent One.

25 But if you make for me an altar of stone,CXXXIV do not buildCXXXV it of hewn stones;CXXXVI for if you useCXXXVII a chiselCXXXVIII upon it you profaneCXXXIX it. 

Notes on verse 25

CXXXIV “stone” = eben. This is a stone, weight, or mason. It is part of the word “Ebenezer.”
CXXXV “build” = banah. Perhaps related to “house” in v2 & “children” in v5 & “daughter” in v10. See note IX above.
CXXXVI “hewn stones” = gazit. 11x in OT. This is something cut like a smooth or hewn stone.
CXXXVII “use” = nuph. This is to rock back and forth, wave, sprinkle, quiver, beckon, offer, present.
CXXXVIII “chisel” = chereb. From charab (to attack, slay). This is any sharp instrument like a sword, dagger, axe, or mattock.
CXXXIX “profane” = chalal. This is to pierce, which implies to wound. It is used figuratively for making someone or something profane or breaking your word. It can also mean to begin as though one opened a wedge. Also, to eat something as a common thing.

26 You shall not go upCXL by stepsCXLI to my altar, so that your nakednessCXLII may not be exposedCXLIII on it.”

Notes on verse 26

CXL “go up” = alah. Related to “above” in v4 & “burnt offerings” in v24. See note XX above.
CXLI “steps” = maalah. Related to “above” in v4 & “burnt offerings” in v24 & “go up” in v26. From ma’aleh (ascent, platform, slope, stairs, cliff, elevation, a rise; figuratively, a priority); from alah (see note XX above). This is something that arises, elevation, a journey to a higher pane. This can be used figuratively to mean having a though or being of a superior status. It is often used in a specific sense for something the mounts to a climax. This is step, stair, or high degree.
CXLII “nakedness” = ervah. From arah (to be bare, empty, raze, uncover, discover, demolish). This is nakedness, nudity – particularly as a reference to genitals, shame, or blemish.
CXLIII “be exposed” = galah. This is to remove, bring, carry, lead, appear, advertise. It can mean to strip someone or something bare in a negative sense. Captives were typically stripped before they were sent into exile. Used figuratively, in a positive sense, this word means reveal, disclose, discover.

Image credit: “Moses Brings the Law from Mount Sinai” by Paul Troger, circa 1750.

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