Micah 1:1-7:20

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Summary[edit]

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Relationship to Old Testament. Micah is one of the "Minor Prophets" of the Old Testament. The relationship of Micah to the Old Testament as a whole, and to the other minor prophets in particular, is discussed at Old Testament: Organization.

Story. Micah consists of either four or six major sections (the first three sections below are often seen as a single section). These sections alternate between pronouncing woes upon Israel in the short term and prophesying Israel's restoration in the long term.

  • Micah 1-2a: Woes upon Israel: idolatry, robbery and false prophets.
  • Micah 3: Woes upon Israel: corrupt judges and false prophets.
  • Micah 7b: Future restoration and personal salvation.

Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Micah include:

Historical setting[edit]

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Micah was from Moresheth-gath, a rural town 25 miles southwest of Jerusalem.

Micah says he received the word of the Lord during the reigns of Jotham (742-735 BC), Ahaz (735-715 BC) and Hezekiah (715-686 BC), kings over the Southern Kingdom of Judah. There is general consensus that the Book of Micah is a collection of independent prophecies received during those three reigns.

Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah and Hosea, and lived a bit later than Amos. Micah was ministering when the Northern Kingdom of Israel was conquered and its people were carried off by Assyria in 721 BC.

This is not the same Micah mentioned in 1 Kings 22:8-28.

A broader treatment of the history of ancient Israel, including Micah, is found at Old Testament: Historical Overview.

Discussion[edit]

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Micah[edit]

  • Micah: Relationship of three prophetic cycles. The starting point to understand the book of Micah is simply to identify which passages prophesy woe upon then-current day Israel and which promise an eventual restoration. Doing so yields three repeated cycles of prophetic woe and restoration as outlined above.
There is broad scholarly consensus that chapters 6-7 form a single prophetic cycle of woe and restoration. But there is much scholarly debate about the restoration prophesy in 2:12-13. This outline follows those who consider it to be the restoration part of a cycle including only chapters 1-2, followed by another woe-restoration cycle in chapters 3-5. But many people instead treat 2:12-13 as the central passage in a longer prophecy of woe (chapters 1-3) in a single woe-restoration cycle that includes all of chapters 1-5. It is more enlightening to understand both positions regarding 2:12-13 than to try to resolve which position is right.
The first cycle (chapters 1-2) and third cycle (chapters 6-7) are parallel to each other. Both begin with a covenant lawsuit. This is followed in each case by a lament. Both cycles explain the reasons for Israel’s punishment. The lengthy prophecy of woe is then followed by a shorter prophecy of restoration.
The middle cycle (chapters 3-5) is different. There the prophecy of woe is short and the prophecy of restoration is much longer. And it is this restoration prophecy at the middle of the book that contains Micah’s Messianic prophecies.
  • Micah: Three prophecies of woe. Micah’s accusations against Israel fall into two broad categories. First, Israel has been disloyal to God. It has forsaken the Lord for idolatry, broken the covenant, and told the prophets not to prophesy. Second, Israel has practiced social injustice upon its own citizens. The defenseless are robbed, justice is perverted through bribery, and the leadership consumes the poor rather than protecting them. In more fundamental terms, Israel has behaved as wicked King Ahab by forsaking its covenant obligations to deal justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. For these offenses Israel will be conquered and carried off until it completes its travail. Micah is sometimes called the “prophet of the poor” for his concern about social injustice.
  • Micah: Three prophecies of restoration. The first restoration prophecy (2:12-13) states that a remnant will be eventually restored. The second restoration prophecy (4:1-5:15) describes the Messiah restoring the remnant, dwelling with them, blessing them, and coming out in vengeance upon Israel’s Gentile enemies. The Gentile nations will in this way also be purified, and all nations shall then flow unto the mountain of the Lord’s house in order to learn the Lord’s ways and walk in his paths. In the third restoration prophecy (7:7-20) the emphasis is on the Lord subduing and forgiving the sins of both individuals and his collective people Israel. This is the mechanism that allows restoration, both to the land of Israel and to be individually brought into the light to behold his righteousness. Micah means “who is like unto thee” or “who is like unto Jehovah.” Micah concludes his book with the thought “Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity.”

Micah 1:1-2:11: First prophecy of woe[edit]

  • Micah 1:1-2:11. In this cycle Micah identifies three great crimes for which Israel will be destroyed: idolatry, robbery, and false prophets.
  • Micah 1:2-7: Idolatry in Northern Kingdom. In the first passage the omnipotent Lord God accuses his people as at a trial (1:2-4). Samaria and Jerusalem, capitals of the Northern and Southern Kingdoms, are accused of idolatry (1:5). Samaria and its idols are thus sentenced to destruction so complete that the city will revert to being an agricultural field. Samaria has earned this outcome as the wages of harlotry, a term emphasizing Israel’s disloyalty as the bride to its bridegroom the Lord (1:6-7). The Northern Kingdom was conquered by Assyria in 721 BC, and the city of Samaria was destroyed in 128 BC during the century of Jewish independence under the Maccabees (167-63 BC).
  • Micah 1:3. After locating "the Lord GOD" in the temple (at Jerusalem) specifically, Micah presents Him as emerging from the Holy of Holies to bring destruction. The imagery is unmistakably the imagery of the Day of Atonement, or rather, of the ultimate Day of Atonement sometimes called the "Day of the LORD." The Day of the Lord was understood to be the eschatological moment when the Lord emerges from the beyond of the Holy of Holies into the fallen world to deliver the righteous and to smite the wicked. The Day of the Lord was inextricably bound up with the Day of Atonement: every Day of Atonement celebrated a dramatic presentation of the Day of the Lord (when the High Priest emerged from the Holy of Holies as a representation of Jehovah), and the eventual "reality" the drama aimed at embodying would happen at the eschatological Day of Atonement. All of this is vastly important to Micah's whole prophecy, because what might otherwise be simply a political prognostication becomes, quite clearly, a ritualistic prophecy. Micah does not merely predict the fall of Samaria to a foreign nation; he pronounces the judgment of the Lord on the city. The prophet does not merely warn Jerusalem of its political difficulties; he makes the situation a question of the covenant.
  • Micah 1:8-16: Idolatry in Southern Kingdom. This sin of idolatry has spread from the Northern Kingdom into the Southern Kingdom (1:9). And so will punishment. Micah and the people of Judah will mourn for her children carried away into captivity (1:8, 16). The heir (1:15 KJV) that comes to Israel is rendered in most other translations as conqueror or dispossessor (1:15 NIV, JPS). The middle of this passage is full of Hebrew puns that are much easier to recognize in the Amplified Bible translation. No single pun is key to understanding this passage. It is enough to know that the place names reinforce this prophecy of woe.
Tell it not at Gath, a Phillistine city that sounds like the Hebrew word for "tell" (1:10). David lamented the fall of the house of Saul with this phrase (2 Samuel 1:20). Now Micah uses it to lament the fall of the house of David. The ancient Septuagint text suggests that weeping should not occur at Acco, a Phoenician city whose name sounds like the Hebrew word for "weeping" (1:10). But when among fellow Israelites, they are to roll in the dust as a sign of mourning in the house of Aphrah, which means "dust" (1:10). The inhabitants of Saphir, which means "pleasant," are to be shamed (1:11). The people of Zanaan, which sounds like the Hebrew word for "come out," shall not come forth (1:11). “The wailing of Beth-Ezel (or house of removal) takes away from you the place on which it stands” (1:11 Amplified). The people of Maroth, which sounds like "bitterness," wait in futility for good (1:12). The people of Lachish, a fortress city that sounds like the word for "team (of horses)," are to hook up their chariots to their horses (1:13). Parting gifts are to be given to Moresheth-gath, Micah’s home town (1:14). Achzib, which means "deception," shall be a lie to the kings of Israel (1:15). These puns began with a reference to David, and they end with another. The glory or nobility of Israel (1:15 NIV; NASB) shall come to Adullum, where David once hid from Saul in a cave (1 Samuel 22:1). These cities form a circle around Micah’s hometown of about 9 miles radius, and goodbye to Moresheth-gath is therefore goodbye to them all. The order is literary, not geographic. Again, individual details are not critical to the overall message.
  • Micah 2:1-5: Robbery. In the next passage Micah’s condemnations move from idolatry to robbery. The greedy landed class dispossesses Israel’s people of their inherited family holdings, dreaming up schemes by night and carrying them out by day (2:1-2). Therefore the Lord is devising a day of conquest in which the landed class will have its lands divided away (2:3-5).
  • Micah 2:6-11: False prophets. In the final passage the people tell the true prophets not to prophesy evil against them (2:6). But if the people would walk uprightly, then the words of the true prophets would be good to them (2:7). At the center of this passage the people are accused of rampant social injustice that tolerates theft against the defenseless, specifically the robbery of passers-by and the casting of women and children out from their homes (2:8-9). The people have polluted their inheritance, this is not the rest that the Lord intended when he brought Israel into the Promised Land, and people should arise (or get upright) and depart from these wicked ways before it causes their destruction (2:10). But they instead prefer false prophets who flatter them with prophesies of “wine and strong drink” (2:11).

Micah 2:12-13: First prophecy of restoration[edit]

  • Micah 2:12-13. As with most prophecies of destruction against Israel, the prophecy of woe in 1:1-2:11 concludes with a promise that the Lord will gather (2:12) and lead a remnant out (2:13). Bozrah is a sheep-rich region in Israel.
  • Micah 2:12-13. Some people read 2:12-13 as a promise of deliverance from Assyria in 701 BC when it conquered the cities listed in 1:8-16 and came up to the gate of Jerusalem but was unable to enter the city (1:9; 2:13). Others see a return from the Babylonian Exile (see 4:10). The other two restoration prophecies ( 4:1-5:15; 7:7-20) are clearly set in the latter days or Millennium, so some suggest that this parallel prophecy should likewise have a latter day setting. Others see a universal deliverance from prison. There may not be a single definitive interpretation.

Micah 3:1-12: Second prophecy of woe[edit]

  • Micah 3:1-12. In this cycle Micah accuses two elite classes, the princes and priests, of not caring for the people under their charge. Instead both classes see the people merely as a source upon which to feed. The accusations in chapter 2 were for taking from the people; here in chapter 3 the accusations are for entirely consuming the people. The Lord will therefore cease to guide either class. These woes progress from silence to darkness to the destruction of the temple.
  • Micah 3:1-4: Corrupt princes. Throughout most of history there has been no separation of powers between legislative, executive and judicial branches. Leaders were expected to maintain internal peace and order by making and fairly enforcing just laws. Here Micah accuses the princes of Israel, who should be familiar with honest judgment, of instead loving evil or perverted judgment (3:1-2). They treat their people as cattle to be consumed (3:2-3) (in contrast to the Lord who will sheepfold his people in 2:12-13). Therefore the Lord will not hear them.
  • Micah 3:5-7: False prophets. Micah also condemns the priests who prophesy for gain. They prophesy peace to those who give them food to bite with the teeth. The repeated reference to eating suggests that the priests are complicit with the princes. And the priests set themselves against those do not give them food or means (3:5). In consequence the Lord will give them no visions: “for there is no answer from God” (3:6-7).
  • Micah 3:8: A true prophet. Micah, in contrast, is a true prophet, full of judgment (unlike the princes), of the spirit of the Lord (unlike the priests), and of might to withstand any war waged by those false priests. Because the Lord does speak to him, he can truly declare Israel’s sin (3:8).
  • Micah 3:9-12: Corrupt princes and prophets. So what does Micah declare? He again accuses the princes of perverting equitable judgment and tolerating violence (3:9-10) and the priests of prophesying flattering words for hire (3:11). But this time the consequence is not merely that these two classes of elites will be cut off from the Lord. This time Zion-Jerusalem (including the temple) shall be destroyed just as completely as was foretold of Samaria back at the very beginning of the book (1:6-7; 3:12). Jer 26:18 attributes this prophecy to Micah during the reign of Hezekiah.

Micah 4:1-5:15: Second prophecy of restoration[edit]

  • Micah 4:1-5:15. The second prophecy of woe is followed by another prophecy of restoration. This prophecy is clearly set in the last days. It begins “But in the last days it shall come to pass ...” (4:1). There is much scholarly disagreement about the literary structure of chapters 4-5.
  • Micah 4:1-5. These verses describe the blessed condition of the Lord’s people after they are established in peace and the Gentile nations look to it for guidance. Mountains can represent either kingdoms or temples. Here they appear to stand for both. Obviously the temple will have to be rebuilt. In Joel 3:9-10 the Gentile nations are invited to gather to Armageddon just before the Second Coming and to “beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears.” Peaceful Millennial conditions following the Second Coming will reverse that instruction.
  • Micah 4:6-5:9. The middle half of this section, in two parallel passages, describes (i) Israel’s condition after it will be conquered, (ii) its deliverance by the Messiah, and (iii) its blessed condition and the destruction of the Gentiles when the Lord restores Israel.
(i) The Lord will gather the afflicted of Israel into a strong nation, recalling the first restoration prophecy, and the “first dominion” or Kingdom of David will return (4:6-8). Israel is smitten and in a defensive posture, but out of Bethlehem, the city of David, shall come forth he that is to be ruler in Israel, the Messiah (5:1-2). Micah 5:2 is the scripture that the scribes will quote to Herod when the wise men come to worship Christ as a young child (Matthew 2:1-6).
(ii) Israel cries out because there is currently no king in Israel. Israel cries out like a woman in travail (in childbirth), and shall go even to Babylon to be delivered of its labor and be redeemed (4:9-10). (Assyria has not yet even reached the height of its power and will not be defeated by Babylon for another hundred years). When Israel’s labor is completed, the Messiah “shall be the peace” and “shall deliver us [Israel] from the Assyrian” (5:3-6). The seven and eight leaders prophesied to deliver Israel probably just mean that seven is enough to deliver, and yet there will be more (a similar device is used that way in Amos 1-2). Because this prophecy is clearly set in the last days, “the Assyrian” probably refers not to that nation, but to Gentile oppressors in general.
(iii) In the day of its deliverance, Israel shall be unstoppable as the dew, as a lion, even as a young lion. The heathen nations will be cut off, harvested as wheat, and their riches will be dedicated to the Lord (4:11-13; 5:7-9).
  • Micah 4:13: Consecrate. The word "consecrate" here translates the Hebrew word charam. This word is also means "to ban." The idea is that to ban something from regular, everyday ("economic") use also what is required when something is set apart as sacred. The word has the connotation of a dedicated gift or offering in Lev 27:28; Num 18:14; Ezek 44:29. More often, however, the word is used in the Old Testament in the context of war where the word is most often translated "destroy" in the KJV (see, for example, these uses of the term in Joshua). The idea of banned goods in holy wars is central to Samuel's chastisement of Saul in 1 Sam 15 (where Samuel famously says "to obey is better than sacrifice," 1 Sam 15:22) and in Josh 7:1ff where Achan misappropriates the contraband goods from Jericho.
  • Micah 5:5: Seven shepherds, and eight principal men. This is likely a literary device expressing the meaning of several. (Cf. Eccl 11:2.)
  • Micah 5:7-8. These two verses offer two parallel characterizations of the "remnant of Jacob" as it is in the midst of the Gentiles. If they are taken as parallelistically structured, there may be reason to read verse 8 as implying far less violence than what is usually read into it. Verse 7 presents the remnant as "a dew from the LORD." The point seems to be, as the verse goes on to flesh out the idea, that the remnant of Jacob is something under God's control, not the control of the people. That is, the remnant of Jacob is brought into their midst by the LORD, and will be taken from their midst by the LORD, and the Gentiles can do nothing about it. If this is parallel to verse 8, then the imagery of verse 8 is rather tame: the remnant of Jacob is there compared to a lion among the beasts of the forest. Though this verse is usually read quite violently, taking the lion as tearing destructively if not preyingly through its surroundings, it may be that the verse is meant particularly to emphasize the lack of control the Gentiles have over the remnant of Jacob. That is, of primary importance here seems to be not the violence of the lion's going through, treading down, and tearing in pieces, but its wildness or its uncontrollability.
In the end, though, the violence of verse 8 cannot be denied. But if this shift in emphasis is justified, then it seems best to understand that violence to be, not so much a prophecy of a radically violent undertaking, of some destructive Israelite dealings with the Gentiles, but rather a prophecy of a radically dangerous wildness about Jacob, of an almost frightening power and ability that the remnant might have to demonstrate if the Gentiles are unwilling to let it leave. Certainly, the thrust of the passage is clearly meant to emphasize the fact that the remnant of Jacob belongs to the all-powerful LORD, and that it is only in the midst of the Gentiles for the benefit of the latter, and that by the grace of the LORD. When the Savior cites this prophecy to the gathered Nephites and Lamanites in 3 Nephi, it seems it would be best to understand the prophecy in these terms.
  • Micah 5:10-15. These verses describe the Lord coming out in judgment against the heathen nations. In that day he will take away their horses and chariots, the most mobile and deadly war implements of the ancient world, and their fortified cities of defense. He will also cut off the soothsayers, idols and groves from among the heathen nations. In the Old Testament a “grove” typically refers to a place where pagan gods were worshiped. So as the Lord establishes his people, he will also come out in vengeance against the heathen nations in a way that will likewise purify them. This contrasts with the favored treatment prophesied for Israel, but it is likewise a purifying process so that, as in the parallel prophecy of 4:2, all nations will look to the Lord’s temple to learn his ways.

Micah 6:1-7:6: Third prophecy of woe[edit]

  • Micah 6. Chapter 6 may be a single unit of thought. It is presented here as two parallel passages (6:1-8; 6:9-16), however, to emphasize the repeated statement that Israel’s obedience to the covenant is judged on the basis of broad principles rather than specific observances.
  • Micah 6:1-8. As in the first woe (1:2-4), the Lord again accuses Israel in a covenant lawsuit (6:1-2). The Lord has faithfully kept the covenant, as illustrated by his two questions and three assertions (6:3-5). “Remember ... that ye may know the righteousness of the Lord” is an invitation to repent and again receive blessing (6:5). Israel’s obligations under the covenant are then stated as broad principles. While the Lord is not opposed to ceremonial sacrifices (6:6-7), what he really wants is for people to: (a) do justly, (b) love mercy, and (c) walk humbly with thy God (6:8).
  • Micah 6:9-16. Israel has not been faithful in keeping the covenant. This is likewise illustrated by two questions and three assertions. Deceitful weights used to cheat when buying and selling grain (6:10-11). Violence and lies, recalling the prior accusations of chapters 2-3 (6:12). In punishment, Israel shall eat but not be satisfied. “Casting down” is variously translated as constipation or dysentery (6:14a). Israel shall “take hold” (or conceive) but shall not deliver; and anything it does deliver will be killed by the sword (6:14b). Sow but not reap (6:15a). Tread olives and grapes but not anoint with oil nor drink wine (15b). Again in general terms, Israel’s punishment is earned by behaving as Omri and Ahab (6:16). Omri established a generally wicked dynasty in the Northern Kingdom. His son Ahab was especially wicked and married the Phoenician princess Jezebel, instituted Baal worship, and sought to kill Elijah and the other prophets of God. Here Israel’s specific offenses can be understood simply as examples that establish its failure to observe the general underlying principles of its covenant with the Lord.
  • Micah 7:1-6. Micah previously lamented the forthcoming captivity (1:8, 16). Here he laments the condition of general wickedness through which he must live prior to the captivity. The number of the righteous is as few as the fruit left behind after harvest (7:1). Public trust is violated as men lie in wait to kill each other and pervert justice through bribes. They are no better than thorny briars (7:2-4a). In fact no one can be trusted as even personal trust is violated by friends, relatives and servants (7:5-6). Such an ungovernable people can expect to see judgment that will cause them to experience perplexity (7:4b).

Micah 7:7-20: Third prophecy of restoration[edit]

  • This restoration prophecy emphasizes forgiveness as the key to restoration, both on a micro or personal level and on a macro or societal level.
  • In the first passage of this section Micah expresses faith in “the God of my [personal] salvation.” He will look to the Lord and expresses his faith that, after he has borne the Lord’s indignation for his sins, the Lord will plead his cause, execute judgment for him, and “I shall behold his righteousness.” His enemies shall see this and no longer ask “Where is thy God?” (7:7-10).
  • The name “Micah” means “who is like unto thee” or “who is like unto Jehovah.” The concluding passage expresses “Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity?” Micah describes the Lord as a God of mercy who will both have compassion and subdue our iniquities. But in this passage it applies not to individuals, but collectively to “us,” “the remnant of his heritage,” “Jacob,” and “Abraham” (7:18-20).
  • The second passage of this section is set “In the day that thy [Jerusalem’s] walls are to be built.” The Lord will dwell with Israel despite its initially desolate condition caused by Israel’s previous bad conduct (7:11-13). In the fourth passage, as in the days when the Lord brought his people out of the land of Egypt, the nations shall see the Lord’s salvation of Israel, shall be afraid of the Lord God, and fear Israel (7:15-17).
  • In the central passage of this section, Micah asks the Lord to feed his people in Bashan and Gilead, parts of Israel known for being especially fertile (7:14). He prays for it even after prophesying it as the word of the Lord.

Complete outline and page map[edit]

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A1. Woes upon Israel: idolatry, robbery and false prophets (Chapter 1-2a)

  • trial accusation: woe on the Northern Kingdom for idolatry (1:2-7)
  • lament: woe on the Southern Kingdom also for this sin (1:8-16)
  • woe on greedy landholders who take land from the poor (2:1-5)
  • woe on a people that robs the helpless and loves false prophets (2:6-11)

B1. Future restoration (Chapter 2b)

  • but the Lord will lead and gather a remnant back home (2:12-13)

A2. Woes upon Israel: corrupt judges and false prophets (Chapter 3)

  • woe on princes who pervert judgment (3:1-4)
  • woe on prophets who prophesy for hire (3:5-7)
  • Micah, in contrast, is possessed of judgment and the spirit of the Lord (3:8)
  • woe on Israel because of corrupt princes and priests (3:9-12)

B2. Future restoration (Chapter 4-5)

a. nations will flow to the mountain of the Lord’s house (4:1-5)
b. the Messiah will deliver and establish Israel (4:6-13)
b. the Messiah will deliver and establish Israel (5:1-9)
a. the Lord will destroy wickedness and warcraft (5:10-15)

A3. Woes upon Israel: judgment (Chapter 6-7a)

  • trial accusation: the Lord is faithful, terms of Israel’s covenant (6:1-8)
  • Israel is unfaithful, terms of Israel’s punishment (6:9-16)
  • lament: at living in wicked Israel prior to its destruction (7:1-6)

B3. Future restoration and personal salvation (Chapter 7b)

a. faith in the forgiveness of Micah’s individual sins (7:7-10)
b. the Lord will dwell with Israel (7:11-13)
c. prayer that Israel be restored (7:14)
b. the Lord will act in strength for Israel (7:15-17)
a. faith in the forgiveness of Israel’s collective sins (7:18-20)

Points to ponder[edit]

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Resources[edit]

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Translations[edit]

  • Amplified • The Amplified Bible, 1987 update
  • NASB • New American Standard Bible, 1995 update
  • NIV • New International Version
  • RSV • Revised Standard Version

Parallel passages[edit]

Joseph Smith Translation[edit]

The Joseph Smith Translation made no changes to the book of Micah.[1]

Cited references[edit]

  • Wayment, Thomas A., ed. The Complete Joseph Smith Translation of the Old Testament, p. 218-19. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2009. (ISBN 1606411314) BX8630.A2 2009

Other resources[edit]

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves, such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word. In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources are preferable to footnotes.

  1. Wayment, The Complete Joseph Smith Translation of the Old Testament, p. 218-19.


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