New Interpreter's Bible treatment of Psalm 44

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Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Posted: Mon, Dec 12 2011 8:16 PM

The NIBs price has been reduced greatly, to a normal pre pub pricing. Here is a sample from volume 4. Psalm 44

http://www.logos.com/product/8803/new-interpreters-bible

PSALM 44:1-26, LIKE SHEEP FOR SLAUGHTER

COMMENTARY

Psalm 44 is the first communal lament or complaint in the psalter. Two major issues have dominated the scholarly discussion of the psalm: (1) the circumstances in which it arose, and (2) the identity of the speaker(s). As for the first issue, a wide variety of proposals has been offered. The origin of the psalm is sometimes placed during the monarchy (see 2 Chr 20:1-12) and is often associated with Sennacherib’s campaign of 701 BCE (see 2 Kgs 18:13–19:37; Isa 36:1–37:37). Then, too, Psalm 44 is clearly reminiscent of the exile, which involved the scattering of the people (see v. 11). Since vv. 17-22 seem inconsistent with the dominant OT view that the exile was a deserved punishment (see 2 Kgs 17:19-20; 24:4-5), other dates have also been proposed, including the second-century BCE Maccabean period, when the Temple was desecrated by Antioches IV Epiphanes. The very fact that these proposals cover a range of over 500 years suggests the difficulty of dating the psalm. As John Calvin suggested long ago, almost any date after the exile would fit, “for after the return of the Jews from the captivity of Babylon, they were scarcely ever free from severe afflictions.”191

The second issue is related to the first. Noting that vv. 4, 6, 15-16 depart from the predominant first-person plural, several scholars suggest that this speaker must be the king, who speaks as a representative of the nation during the crisis.

 

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 Obviously, this view necessitates a pre-exilic dating of the psalm. Craigie, for instance, argues that Psalm 44 originated during some unknown pre-exilic crisis and was used during subsequent crises throughout the history of the nation.192 But as Gerstenberger points out, the alternating of plural and singular speakers can be attributed to the liturgical use of the psalm, and he suggests that the origin and use of Psalm 44 are to be associated with “Jewish worship in Persian times,” the purpose of which in part was to encourage and strengthen congregations in a threatening environment.193

Perhaps more accessible than the question of the origin of Psalm 44 is the issue of its final placement. There are striking linguistic links between Psalms 42–43 and 44 (see Commentary on Psalms 42–43), which open Book II. While Psalms 42–43 seem to be the prayer of an exiled individual, Psalm 44 is the prayer of a scattered people. Together, they set the tone for hearing the rest of the psalms in Book II, and thus they reinforce the ability of the collection to address the perpetually threatened people of God (see Introduction). This recognition allows Psalm 44 to be heard not simply as a historical artifact but as an ongoing theological resource for the people of God as they confront their vocation and the suffering that it inevitably involves (see Reflections below).

Psalm 44 can be divided into four major sections. Verses 1-8 have the character of a profession of faith that is motivated by historical recollection. In view of v. 8b, the section of bitter complaint in vv. 9-16 is unexpected, thus increasing its rhetorical impact. The vehemence of the complaint is perhaps more understandable in the light of vv. 17-22, the people’s protestation of innocence. The psalm culminates in the petition of vv. 23-26.

44:1-8. The book of Deuteronomy directs that children be told of God’s deliverance of the people from Egypt and of God’s gift of the land (Deut 6:20-25), and Psalm 44 begins by affirming that this has happened (see Judg 6:13; Ps 78:3-4). The “you” that begins v. 2 is emphatic. God’s power—symbolized by God’s “hand” (v. 2), “right hand,” (v. 3; see Exod 15:6, 13), and “arm” (v. 3; see Exod 15:16; Ps 77:15)—has been operative in the people’s history. The latter is specifically contrasted in v. 3 with “their own arm.” As in the exodus and holy war traditions (see Exodus 15; Joshua 8–12), God is portrayed as a warrior. The result is “victory” (h[wvy yusû (â, v. 3; lit., “salvation”; see vv. 4, 6, 7; and Exod 15:2 NIV); the nations have been driven out (see Deut 7:17) and the people “planted” (see Exod 15:17; Jer 24:6; 32:41). Whereas in Ps 42:2, the psalmist could not see “the face of God,” Ps 44:3 attributes victory to “the light of your face” (see also Ps 4:6). The section concludes with the observation that Israel’s past has been evidence of God’s love (see Deut 7:7-11, where the same observation is made with different vocabulary; see also Ps 149:4, where the NRSV’s “takes pleasure” translates the same verb here translated “delighted” [hxr rAzâ] and where it also accounts for the people’s “victory”).

The emphatic pronoun “you” opens v. 4 as it did v. 2, focusing attention on God. God’s control of the destiny of nations and peoples—God’s victory—is evidence of God’s sovereignty; so God is addressed as “my King” (see Pss 5:2; 68:24; 74:12; 84:3; see also Exod 15:1-18; Pss 98:1-3; 149:1-7, where God’s “victory”/“salvation,” God’s control of the nations, and God’s reign are explicitly associated; see also Psalm 2; Introduction). In addition to the repetition of “victory,” vv. 4-8 are linked to vv. 1-3 by the repetition of “sword” (vv. 3, 6). While the participation of the people is somewhat more evident in v. 5 than in vv. 2-3, the victory still belongs to God (the word translated “tread down” [swb bûs] is used elsewhere of God as warrior; see Pss 60:12; 108:13; Isa 14:21; 63:6). The people’s trust (v. 6; see Pss 4:5; 9:10; Introduction), boasting (v. 8; see Ps 34:2; cf. Pss 52:1; 97:7), and gratitude (see Pss 75:1; 79:13) are properly directed to God.

44:9-16. Nothing in vv. 1-8 has prepared for the complaint in vv. 9-16. Suddenly, delight has become rejection (v. 9; see v. 23 NIV; see also Pss 43:2; 60:1, 10; 74:1; 77:7; 88:14; 89:38; 108:11); victory has become retreat and defeat (v. 10). God is no longer the good shepherd of the “sheep” (see Pss 74:1; 79:13; 95:7; 100:3). Rather, the sheep are either being killed (v. 11a ; 

 

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see v. 22; Jer 12:3) or scattered (see Ezek 5:12; 12:14; 20:23). The word “sold” (rkm mAkar, v. 12) recalls former times that were not so auspicious (see Judg 2:14; 3:8; 4:2). The language of vv. 13-16 is similar to that of other individual and communal complaints. The people are taunted (v. 16; see Ps 22:6), derided (see Ps 22:7), and scorned (see Ps 79:4, where all three words occur). The word “byword” (see Ps 69:11) occurs in Deut 28:37 as part of the curses for violating the covenant, thus preparing for the people’s defense in vv. 17-22.

44:17-22. In vv. 20-21, the people suggest that they could accept their misfortune if they had worshiped a “strange god” (see Ps 81:9; Isa 43:12). But they have neither forgotten God (vv. 17, 20) nor violated the covenant (see Deut 4:23; 2 Kgs 17:15). They have not “turned back” (see Ps 78:57), yet they suffer (v. 19; on v. 19a, cf. Isa 34:13; Jer 9:11; 10:22; on v. 19b, cf. Pss 23:4; 107:10). Thus all they can conclude is that their suffering is “Because of you” (v. 22). Verse 22 recalls v. 11a, although the Hebrew words translated “slaughter” differ in the two verses (lkam ma )akAl, v. 11a ; hjbf tibhâ, v. 22). The one in v. 22 occurs also in Isa 53:7 (see Ps 69:7), which is part of the climactic Suffering Servant song, another text that pushes toward new and deeper understandings of suffering (see Reflections below).

44:23-26. Given the people’s conclusion in v. 22, all that they can do is desperately plead for God to wake up (see Pss 7:6; 35:23; 59:4-5) as they bombard God with questions. God is not supposed to sleep (see Ps 121:4); God is not supposed to hide God’s face (see Pss 13:1; 22:24; 27:9); God is not supposed to forget affliction (see Pss 9:12, 18; 10:12; 42:9). A final complaint (v. 25; the NRSV’s “sinks down” translates a verb [hjv sAhâ] that is very similar to “cast down” in Pss 42:5, 11; 43:5) precedes the threefold petition of the concluding verse: “Rise up” (see Pss 3:7; 74:22), “help” (see Pss 22:19; 38:22; 40:13), “redeem” (see Pss 25:22; 34:22). The appeal is to God’s fundamental character: steadfast love (see Exod 34:6-7; Pss 5:7; 6:4; Introduction). While God is the problem, God is also the solution. As Mays suggests, “the last hope of a faithful people is the faithfulness of God.”194

REFLECTIONS

The unexpected movement from vv. 1-8 to vv. 9-16 reveals the pathos of Psalm 44; God’s faithful people suffer, even when they do not deserve it (vv. 17-22). Thus they are left to appeal for help (vv. 23-26) to the one who is apparently the source of the problem (vv. 11, 22). This is the paradox of the individual complaints and of the book of Job as well. For the psalmists and for Job, every experience of life is somehow an experience of God. Like Psalm 44, for instance, Psalm 13 moves from bitter complaint (cf. Ps 13:1 to 44:24) to petition and to the psalmist’s taking a stand on God’s steadfast love (cf. 13:5 to 44:26). The paradox of the complaints pushes toward a profound understanding of suffering (see Commentary on Psalms 13; 22).

Crucial in this regard in Psalm 44 are vv. 11 and 22. In commenting on v. 22, Mays concludes:

“For your sake” meant they could see no other meaning and purpose in their confession and trust [see vv. 1-8] than that they were accounted as sheep for slaughter. But that minimal and doleful interpretation of their suffering opens on the prospect of an understanding of suffering as a service to the kingdom of God. The prospect leads to the suffering servant of Isaiah 53, to Jewish martyrs, and to the cross of Calvary.195

For Israel, the experience of exile and the ongoing afflictions of the post-exilic era necessitated a reconsideration of suffering. While it is not clear that the origin of Psalm 44 can be related to the exile, it is certain that Psalm 44 and other complaints assisted Israel to reach in the

 

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 post-exilic era a new and profound understanding of its suffering and its vocation. In this regard, the similarity to Isaiah 53 is not surprising (cf. Ps 44:11, 22 to Isa 53:7). Israel came to understand its mission to the world in terms of a suffering that is somehow redemptive.

This understanding of suffering, election, and vocation makes comprehensible the life and death of Jesus Christ. Jesus could even pronounce his followers blessed when they experienced the kind of rejection and derision described in Ps 44:13-16 (see Matt 5:10-11). In his consideration of “the sufferings of this present time” (Rom 8:18 NRSV) that are experienced by “God’s elect” (Rom 8:33 NRSV), the apostle Paul quoted Ps 44:22 (see Rom 8:36) to illustrate the nature of the Christian life. Suffering is not a sign of separation from God or from God’s love; rather, it marks those who have been chosen to follow Jesus Christ (see Mark 8:34-35).

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Matthew C Jones | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jan 10 2012 7:45 PM

Dan Francis:

The NIBs price has been reduced greatly, to a normal pre pub pricing. Here is a sample from volume 4. Psalm 44

http://www.logos.com/product/8803/new-interpreters-bible

Thanks again, Dan.

Boy, I really hope we get to use our Logos Credit on this Pre-Pub. 

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David Paul | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jan 10 2012 10:21 PM

Dan Francis:

Suffering is not a sign of separation from God or from God’s love; rather, it marks those who have been chosen to follow Jesus Christ (see Mark 8:34-35).

"Suffering", in and of itself, is not a sign of anything. It very well CAN BE "a sign of separation from God or God's love", but of course, it might not be. The context determines the cause, purpose, and/or meaning.

Odd that an editor didn't deal with this--it's a pretty significant inaccuracy.

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jan 10 2012 10:47 PM

David Paul:
Odd that an editor didn't deal with this--it's a pretty significant inaccuracy.

David Paul, you know the rules of the forums. Please refrain from arguable (theological) assertions. I don't recall if you were around when the some individuals on the forums felt that making a suggestion was running a gauntlet of argument over whether or not a source was useful/correct. We reached an agreement that when others recommended or suggested a resource we would not speak unless we supported the resource. I know this is an unwritten rule that we hope others learn by example. I've taken this offer to make it explicit again.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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David Paul | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jan 10 2012 11:04 PM

MJ. Smith:

David Paul:
Odd that an editor didn't deal with this--it's a pretty significant inaccuracy.

David Paul, you know the rules of the forums. Please refrain from arguable (theological) assertions. I don't recall if you were around when the some individuals on the forums felt that making a suggestion was running a gauntlet of argument over whether or not a source was useful/correct. We reached an agreement that when others recommended or suggested a resource we would not speak unless we supported the resource. I know this is an unwritten rule that we hope others learn by example. I've taken this offer to make it explicit again.

I will keep this in mind, but it seems a strange rule, especially if one is asking for honest opinion about a resource. I don't know if this NEW Interpreter's Bible is related to the Interpreter's Bible, but I bought a multi-volume copy of the latter from a used book store years ago and was thoroughly unimpressed, to state it as positively as I can.

I will keep in mind not to ask resource evaluation questions on the forum unless I desire to receive only a rose-tinged reply.

FWIW, I don't see how my first comment was "arguable"...there are multiple extended passages that illustrate suffering being intentionally inflicted at times as a result of God's wrath. My comment was intended to draw attention to the writing (i.e. use of grammatical and semantic logic) and editing of the resource.

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jan 11 2012 12:59 AM

David Paul:
I will keep this in mind, but it seems a strange rule, especially if one is asking for honest opinion about a resource.

Ah, I wasn't clear. If someone requests information about a resource then give your honest opinion - an you are free to ask others opinions.  It's when a resource is suggested or pushed for purchase that silence is the best form of disagreement.

David Paul:
I don't see how my first comment was "arguable"..

I've only had one course in theodicy but wikipedia lists the following proposed answers - so I suspect any position is arguable.Smile

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Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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David Paul | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jan 11 2012 1:44 AM

I think the so-called "problem of evil" stems mostly from the fact that people think God can't do things He clearly does. Sovereignty and the inability to sin provide Him that luxury.

That, and general ignorance of the fact that the word "evil" is literally a RELATIVE term in the Bible. According to the Bible's own usage, Satan can rightly call "evil" YHWH's attempts (and eventual ultimate success) in thwarting his adversarial will. The word means nothing more than "that which one doesn't want to happen." While evil CAN BE equated to sin in certain situations, it is NOT always the case. About 2/3 of the time this word-idea is mentioned, YHWH openly proclaims Himself to be the author of evil, though He often makes use of agents.

A simple search on the word in Logos will confirm this.

Replacing the (inherently relative) phrase " the problem of evil" with "the problem of sin" (a better and more Biblical approach), one must still recognize that sin isn't (as is often assumed) something that we consider unacceptable...it is something (by definition) that God considers unacceptable. He may well have no problem at all with allowing many of the things we find unacceptable. Any "perceived" problem is ours, not His.

The problem with nearly all "examinations" of this subject, such as the one you provided above (not that it's your opinion) usually begins at outline step 1.1--the logic in presenting the "logical problem" is flawed and illogical.

Since that is the case here, and with most other issues, I suppose you are right. Virtually anything can be fodder for an argument. Starting with wrong premises will rarely lead to contented agreement.

I wonder what the NIB says about this??? (Actually, not really...I'm just trying to steer back to the OP).

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Matthew C Jones | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jan 11 2012 8:16 AM

David Paul:
Replacing the (inherently relative) phrase " the problem of evil" with "the problem of sin" (a better and more Biblical approach),
There is a danger here to blame all "evil" (sorrow & suffering & decay) on sin.  John 9:2-3 supports both your assertion and mine. Our perception of suffering makes us demand an answer from a higher power for justification for allowing such to happen. I find it interesting Muslims teach Allah reserves the right to condemn a faithful follower if he chooses. They say Allah has more sovereignty than the God of Christians because Allah is not bound by his own promises.   At least that is what a Muslim told me. I have not studied Islam in earnest.

   { I'm looking forward to the latest two Community Pricing collections. Samuel Zwemer ,  Islamic Studies }

David Paul:
I wonder what the NIB says about this???

No one resource is going to deal with every approach to a subject. My solution to their limitations is to just buy more resources. 

edit: I am not discussing the Fall or effect of sin entering a perfect creation. (That would be theological discussion.) I am only questioning man's ability to truly determine what is "evil."

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Paul Oertly | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jan 11 2012 9:11 AM

Are we playing good cop, bad cop today?

MJ. Smith:
Please refrain from arguable (theological) assertions.
Super Tramp:
There is a danger here to blame all "evil" (sorrow & suffering & decay) on sin.  John 9:2-3 supports both your assertion and mine. Our perception of suffering makes us demand an answer from a higher power for justification for allowing such to happen. I find it interesting Muslims teach Allah reserves the right to condemn a faithful follower if he chooses. They say Allah has more sovereignty than the God of Christians because Allah is not bound by his own promises.
Super Tramp:
I am not discussing the Fall or effect of sin entering a perfect creation. (That would be theological discussion.) I am only questioning man's ability to truly determine what is "evil."
Brad Fry:

The reminders that these forums are to discuss Logos Bible Software would have greater credibility if this was done across the board and on a consistent basis.

Denying the fact that one is making  arguable (theological) assertions does not change what they are. Attempting to convince others that your dog is a cat, will not stop it from barking.

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Mitchell | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jan 11 2012 9:29 AM

I think this comment keeps in line with discussion of the resource, not discussion of the theological topic.

Keep in mind that this is a commentary on a specific passage that deals with suffering, not a comprehensive theological treatment of the topic of suffering as a whole. I would say that, in the context of this psalm, everything the commentator says is justified and to say more would be go to beyond the scope of this passage.

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Paul Oertly | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jan 11 2012 9:38 AM

Mitchell Ebbott:
I think this comment keeps in line with discussion of the resource, not discussion of the theological topic.
Is there more than one conclusion that can be reached when reading the passage? If so,Stating one view is an arguable assertion.
MJ. Smith:
Please refrain from arguable (theological) assertions.
MJ. Smith:
I've only had one course in theodicy but wikipedia lists the following proposed answers - so I suspect any position is arguable.
Super Tramp:
 John 9:2-3 supports both your assertion and mine.
(Emphasis Mine)

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Matthew C Jones | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jan 11 2012 9:48 AM

Do you need a list of Logos resources that address your study focus today? 

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Matthew C Jones | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jan 11 2012 10:08 AM

Mitchell Ebbott:
Keep in mind that this is a commentary on a specific passage
Very true. It is not a theological dictionary. Addressing the whole subject would go way beyond the scope of the commentary since the text itself does not.

For a broader treatment of the "problem of evil" here are just a few Logos resources:

  1. The Problem of Evil and its Symbols in Jewish and Christian Tradition
  2. Problems in Theology 2: Evil
  3. The Roots of Evil
  4. Biblical Counseling Keys on Evil & Suffering...Why?
  5. Evil and the Justice of God by Wright, N. T.
  6. Naming the Silences: God, Medicine, and the Problem of Suffering

I really appreciate Dan's original post for what it is. Another great sampling of a resource people should know about. An informed customer is a smart customer.

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Paul Oertly | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jan 11 2012 10:26 AM

Super Tramp:
Funny, I missed the part where someone promoted a theological view.
 That's the  whole point There is no consensus among the referees.
MJ. Smith:
We reached an agreement that when others recommended or suggested a resource we would not speak unless we supported the resource. I know this is an unwritten rule that we hope others learn by example.
MJ. Smith:
Please refrain from arguable (theological) assertions.
Super Tramp:
 I will agree that in the reasoning of men one can argue for a flat earth
Funny, I assumed that the forum was made up entirely of men ( humans). Have you been promoted to a loftier status? 

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Denise | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jan 11 2012 10:39 AM

Believe Paul nailed another one. He's good. That's unfortunate, since the thread simply encourages a very good resource and one that would benefit Logos as well.

But the theological discussion is interesting; I didn't know the relativity of evil; will have to do a search/study on that.

"I didn't know God made honky tonk angels."

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Paul Oertly | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jan 11 2012 10:48 AM

DMB:
But the theological discussion is interesting
Please don't get me wrong. I strongly encourage discussion. I am, However, offended when only Some discussions are allowed. And it seems the allowable discussions are the ones the MVP's choose to participate in. (until it is obvious they are losing the debate...then they invoke the forum guidelines or lose interest in the discussion)
Super Tramp:
I am no longer interested in engaging off-topic negativity, even with people I agree with.

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Matthew C Jones | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jan 11 2012 10:57 AM

Paul Oertly:
That's the  whole point There is no consensus among the referees

We are not here to form a consensus. (That would be impossible) We are here to help Logos Bible software users. 

I am no longer interested in engaging off-topic negativity, even with people I agree with. Wink

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Paul Oertly | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jan 11 2012 11:16 AM

Super Tramp:

Paul Oertly:
That's the  whole point There is no consensus among the referees

We are not here to form a consensus.

When a group of individuals is responsible for officiating a game...it is imperative that they all read from the same playbook, or pandemonium erupts. Oh wait ! That is what is happening here.

 

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jan 11 2012 12:33 PM

Paul Oertly:
here is no consensus among the referees

As I say frequently, I can only take responsibility for my own actions.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Paul Oertly | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jan 11 2012 1:00 PM

MJ. Smith:

Paul Oertly:
there is no consensus among the referees

As I say frequently, I can only take responsibility for my own actions.

Then, who is this We you speak of?
MJ. Smith:
We reached an agreement that when others recommended or suggested a resource we would not speak unless we supported the resource.

 

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