The New Moon and the Weekly Sabbath -- Side-By-Side!
Throughout the Bible we find mention of the weekly Sabbath side-by-side with new moon observance. Is this coincidental, or an indication that these two days are meant to be observed together, and that one is dependent upon the other for determining its place in time? What does the book of Genesis say we should use to determine time -- the sun? the moon? both? The answer to this question is vital in determining when YEHOVAH God's weekly Sabbath day should be kept.
by John D. Keyser
Calendar disputes are nothing new. When the Northern ten tribes of Israel broke away from Judah Jeroboam, their new king, established a feast in the eighth month in rebellion to the scriptural one in the seventh month (Tabernacles.). During the time of the Messiah there is evidence that the Sadducees were keeping a solar calendar or reckoning while that of the Pharisees was lunar based. The Essenes moved to Qumran in the Judean wilderness because they accused the high priests in Jerusalem of being wicked and in error regarding the calendar. There, in Qumran, archaeologists have found evidence that the Essenes used the Maccabean period Book of Jubilees -- which demands a solar based calendar be kept that used a 364-day year.
In our day, notes author Jonathan Brown, "disputes between 'Sabbatarians,' (Saturday sabbath) and 'Lord's Day' keepers are of such variety that they now even include the theories of whether a 'day' includes the 'night' of dark hours where there is no sunlight; and whether sabbath begins at noon because noon is actually the 'evening.' These arguments are all based upon the assumption that our current seven-day cycle is something which has always been with mankind. Indeed the Seventh-Day churches fervently argue that Sunday through Saturday has run continuously from creation. However, just because we grew up with this cycle doesn't mean it always existed" (Keeping Yahweh's Appointments, p. 41).
And, although they might interpret it otherwise, all the authorities I have read agree that the basis in law for YEHOVAH God's calendar is found in Genesis 1:14 -- notice, for example:
A calendar is an orderly system of dividing time into years, months, weeks, and days. Long before man's creation, God provided the basis for such measuring of time. Genesis 1:14, 15 tells us that one of the purposes of the "luminaries in the expanse of the heavens" is that they might serve for "seasons and for days and years." The solar day, the solar year, and the lunar month are thus NATURAL divisions of time, governed respectively by the daily turning of the earth on its axis, by its annual orbit around the sun, and by the MONTHLY PHASES OF THE MOON in its relation to earth and sun. The division of time into WEEKS and the division of the day into hours, on the other hand, are ARBITRARY ones [especially the "week" we observe today]. -- Insight On the Scriptures, Vol. 1, p. 389. Article "Calendar."
In Eerdmans Handbook to the Bible, p. 111, we read: "Perhaps in early times the weekly sabbath was adjusted to COINCIDE with major festivals, or even with new moons (see Leviticus 23). After the exile, the seventh-day sabbath was more strictly [?] observed and BECAME INDEPENDENT of the lunisolar calendar. So the orthodox Jews had problems over the relationship of the sabbaths and festivals."
Let's, now, read Genesis 1:14 for ourselves --
Then God said, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for SIGNS and SEASONS, and for DAYS and YEARS."
In verse 16 we read:
Then God made two great lights: the greater light [sun] to rule the day, and the lesser light [moon] to rule the night. He made the stars also."
Now, we should be able to recognize that whatever these "lights" are, they are NATURAL PHENOMENA which dictate the rules of order for calculating time. And, notice, it is not a singular source of light YEHOVAH God made (i.e., the sun) but all collectively -- "let THEM [the sun and the moon] be for signs..."
It should be quite apparent that nothing in our present seven-day cycle or week can be tied to anything in the natural phenomena that YEHOVAH God outlines in the above verses -- the sun, moon or stars. Moreover, our "week" doesn't even flow with the current Gregorian calendar. January 1st (the beginning of our "year") falls on a different "week day" everytime it comes around. The beginning and end of our seven-day cycle are simply not ANCHORED in nature, and this in itself proves that YEHOVAH's true Sabbath day is neither Saturday nor Sunday (except occasionally when the Sabbath happens to fall on these days) -- in light of the fact that:
1/. The reckoning of time is only by the "lights in the heavens" and
2/. the Fourth Commandment clearly specifies that YEHOVAH God had a particular day in mind when He said "remember to keep the sabbath holy."
The 15th Day of the Second Month...
At first glance it seems that the Bible nowhere outlines a clearly spelled out formula for constructing a Sabbath calendar. Genesis 1:14 tells us what source we are to turn to for calculations, but there doesn't seem to be any explicit instructions on their practical implementation. Notes Jonathan Brown, "notching off seven "solar-day" periods which never correspond at the beginning or end with heavenly lights does not satisfy Genesis 1:14". But all is not lost. There is a passage in the Bible that plainly shows how to determine YEHOVAH's TRUE Sabbath days! This passage is found in Exodus 16. Notice what Herbert W. Armstrong writes --
The generation of Israelites which Moses led out of Egypt had had no religious instruction or training. Probably they knew little about the Sabbath. Time could have been lost -- to them. But, if so, GOD REVEALED IT BY AMAZING MIRACLES!
NOW NOTICE! These Israelites, some three or four million in total number (600,000 men above age 20), came to the wilderness of Sin two months after leaving egypt, and some two weeks BEFORE arriving at Mt. Sinai [in Saudi Arabia]. Remember, this is weeks before God gave them the Ten Commandments. These people were griping and grumbling because of scarcity of food in the desert.
And here God revealed to them, by MIRACLES, which day was the Sabbath, and whether it makes any difference whether it is kept (Which Day Is the Christan Sabbath? Pasadena: Ambassador College Press, 1972. P. 30).
Let's, now, go to the Bible and get the time frame:
And they departed from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sina; and ON THE FIFTEENTH DAY, IN THE SECOND MONTH after their departure from the land of Egypt, all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron. And the children of Israel said to them, Would we had died smitten by the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh-pots, and ate bread to satiety! for ye have brought us out into this wilderness, to slay all this congregation with hunger. And the Lord said to Moses, Behold, I will rain bread upon you out of heaven: and the people shall go forth, and they shall gather their daily portion for the day, that I may try them WHETHER THEY WILL WALK IN MY LAW OR NOT. -- Exodus 16:1-4, Septuagint.
It is very interesting that Moses should mention the EXACT DAY that the Israelites murmured against him and Aaron in the wilderness -- nowhere else in the narrative of the Israelites' wanderings from Egypt to the Promised Land is an exact date mentioned! This day -- the 15TH DAY OF THE SECOND MONTH -- was so important to YEHOVAH God that He appeared in the cloud before the Israelites and then caused thousands (maybe millions) of quail to be blown into the Israelites' camp "between the two evenings," i.e., the afternoon of the 15th. Why was this day so important to YEHOVAH?
Continues Herbert Armstrong --
I will show you that God was speaking to them ON A SABBATH. It is evident that the Eternal (who, in human flesh later became CHRIST) first preached to man on the first Sabbath. Adam was created on the sixth day of creation week Evidently he was created on the sixth day of creation week. Evidently he was created in the late afternoon, since the creation of man was the last act of creation on that day. When the sun had set, immediately after Adam's creation, God preached to him, offering him the GIFT of eternal life (through the tree of life), and warning that the wages of sin is DEATH (Gen. 2:15-17).
And here [in the wilderness of Sin] God is again preaching to Israel, through Moses, on the Sabbath.
In the next verses of Exodus 16 we read how the Israelites saw the glory of the Eternal (verse 10) and how, in the afternoon, He sent the quail for food, and the next morning the manna was on the ground (verses 11-13).
Writes Armstrong --
Now notice the next miracle. Verse 20: some tried to save a supply of manna over until next morning, contrary to God's command. "It bred worms, and stank."
Now verse 22: On the sixth day they gathered a double portion of manna. Verse 23: Moses explained that "Tomorrow is the rest of the Holy sabbath unto the Eternal." And on this sixth day, they were commanded to lay up the Sabbath supply of food, which they did. And, verse 24, it did not breed worms nor decay, as on the preceding five days! Here was another MIRACLE from God, showing them which is the right seventh day!
When the next morning came -- the SABBATH, Moses said (verses 25-26) "Today is a sabbath unto the Eternal: today ye shall not find it in the field. Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none" (Which Day Is the Christian Sabbath?, p.31).
Starting on the 15th day of the month, YEHOVAH God provided food for the Israelites then, on the seventh day after the 15th, He did not provide any more manna -- thereby showing that this day (the 22nd day of the month) was a Sabbath. Obviously, if the 15th was seven days before the 22nd, it too was a Sabbath! This Herbert Armstrong clearly understood. We can see here that YEHOVAH was setting up His weekly Sabbath cycle for the Israelites. If the 15th and the 22nd were Sabbath days -- then the 8th and the 29th of the month were also Sabbaths! So here we see a pattern -- 8th, 15th, 22nd and 29th. What significance do these dates have in YEHOVAH God's calendar? Just this -- THEY CORRESPOND TO THE PHASES OF THE MOON!! YEHOVAH was showing the Israelites that His Sabbath days were to fall on the days corresponding to the moon's phases, thus showing that the weekly Sabbaths were to be kept by THE SAME CALENDAR or reckoning used to determine the annual Sabbaths or Feast days!
Signs, Seasons, Days and Years
There is yet another KEY that translators and interpreters of YEHOVAH God's Word have known and kept to themselves for quite some time. Its discovery will help us to understand YEHOVAH's natural time-keeping law.
Regarding those four key words in Genesis 1:14 -- signs, seasons, days and years -- we can be sure that the sun generally marks days. After 12 moon cycles have passed, the earth has gone through nearly four seasons of weather changes making up a year, marked by the sun with four clearly defined earth tilts called equinoxes and solstices. These in turn are determined by the angle of the sun throughout which the sunlight hours grow longer to a threshold at which they then begin growing shorter again. The underlying Hebrew word is accurately translated by the word signs -- implying astronomical events such as eclipses, and others we observe with our eyes in the sun, moon and stars. This reminds us of YEHOVAH's promise in Jeremiah 31:35-36: "Thus says the Lord, who gives the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night...If those ordinances depart from before Me, says the Lord, then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation before Me forever."
Finally, at first glance, the word seasons appears to represent the four radical weather shifts we experience each year -- winter, summer, spring and autumn or fall. However, the Hebrew word that has been translated "seasons" implies NO SUCH THING! This word -- "MOWADAH" (Strong's #4150) -- literally means "AN APPOINTMENT, i.e., a fixed time or season---by implication, an assembly (as convened for a definite purpose); technically the congregation; by extension, the place of meeting..." etc. Clearly, using the English word "seasons" to translate a word that literally means "an appointment" is, at the very best, misleading. In fact, it is the sun (equinoxes and solstices) that marks the four seasonal changes that make up the actual year. So, to interpret the Hebrew word "mowadah" to mean those seasons is duplicitous to say the least!
Psalm 104 reveals the answer to the riddle of this apparently deliberate mistranslation. There, in verse 19, we find the same word -- mowadah -- used SPECIFICALLY IN RELATION TO THE MOON --
He appointed the moon for seasons [mowadah]..."
In this verse the English word "appointed" actually means "made" -- see Strong's #6213. Better translated, this verse should read: "He MADE the moon for APPOINTMENTS"! Now, just what are His, or YEHOVAH God's, appointments? The answer to this is found in Leviticus 23 --
Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: "The FEASTS of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My FEASTS.
Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work on it; it is a Sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings" (verses 2-3, NKJ).
Interestingly, the word "feasts" in verse 2 above is, in fact, the word "MOWADAH" -- exactly the same as "SEASONS" in Genesis 1:14 and Psalms 104:19. So these verses in Leviticus 23 should read as follows: "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'The APPOINTMENTS of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My APPOINTMENTS."
The grave error in translating "mowadah" as "feasts" becomes apparent when you realize that in verse 3 the SOLE SUBJECT is the seventh-day Sabbath! Generally we don't think of the Sabbath as being a "feast" per se, but it actually leads the list of "feasts" in Leviticus 23. The bottom line is that with the actual planetary moon being established for YEHOVAH God's appointments [mowadah] in Psalm 104, the verses in Leviticus (2-3) prove that the sole means by which the seventh-day Sabbath was calculated was by the moon! The Sabbath is a mowadah -- the moon WAS MADE FOR mowadah. There is absolutely nothing in the Bible that specifies this term for the sun.
Corroboration comes from Ecclesiasticus 43, originally written in Hebrew in the time frame 190-180 B.C. and translated into Greek around 132 B.C. Notice --
And then the moon, ever punctual to mark the times, an everlasting sign: It is the moon that signals the feasts, a luminary that wanes after being full. The month derives its name from hers, she waxes wonderfully in her phases, banner of the hosts on high, shining in the vault of heaven" (verses 6-8).
Notice in verse 7 the word "feasts." The underlying Greek word here for "feasts" is heorte (Strong's #1859) and is EXACTLY the same as the one in the Greek Septuagint Version of Leviticus 23:2 -- which in verse 3 INCLUDES the seventh-day Sabbath! Although Ecclesiasticus is considered apocryphal, it contradicts both the book of Enoch and the book of Jubilees which both insist that the sun is the only means by which to calculate the feasts and sabbaths.
Observes Jonathan Brown --
It is well-known that the earliest Old Testament manuscripts available are the Dead Sea Scrolls. Both Leviticus 23:2-3 and Psalm 104:19 are extant. There is no variance in the use of the word mowadah for either of those passages between the Dead Sea Scrolls (copied circa. 100 B.C.) and the later Masoretic text from which the King James Version was translated (Keeping Yahweh's Appointments, p. 46).
So, with great clarity, the earliest manuscripts show that THE MOON WAS MADE FOR APPOINTMENTS -- THE FIRST OF WHICH IS THE WEEKLY SABBATH!! This, at the very least, indicates that the LUNAR RECKONING of Sabbaths and holy days was commonly understood by the writers of the Bible. Many researchers with open minds understand this.
The "Pendant" of the Sabbath
Records the New Schaff-Herzog Religious Encyclopedia --
The association of the sabbath rest with the account of creation must have been very ancient among the Hebrews, and it is noteworthy that no other Semitic peoples, even the Babylonians, have any tradition of the creation in six days. It would appear that the primitive Semites had FOUR CHIEF MOON DAYS, probably the first, eighth, fifteenth, and twenty-second of each month, CALLED SABBATHS from the fact that there was a tendency to end work before them so that they might be celebrated joyfully. Among the Babylonians these seventh days through astrological conceptions became ill-omened, while the sabbath in the middle of the month [the 15th] was made a day of propitiation, and its name was construed as meaning "the day for ending the wrath of the gods." The Israelites, on the other hand, made the sabbaths the feasts of a living and holy God. The work of man became symbolic of the work of God, and human rest of divine rest, so that the sabbaths became preeminently days of rest. Since, moreover, the LUNAR MONTH had 29 or 30 days, the normal lapse of time between sabbaths was six days, although sometimes seven or eight; and six working days were accordingly assigned to the creation, which was to furnish a prototype for human life.
Continuing, we read --
THE CONNECTION OF THE SABBATH WITH LUNAR PHASES, however, WAS DISCARDED BY THE ISRAELITES...AND THE WEEKS WERE ACCORDINGLY DIVORCED FROM THE DAYS OF THE MONTHS AND WERE MADE TO FOLLOW IN SUCCESSION THROUGHOUT THE YEAR, a more regular correspondence with the week of creation being thus secured [or, a more regular correspondence with the economic realities of the environment in which they lived!]. The first lunar day, however, or the day of the NEW MOON, retained, although no longer called sabbath, somewhat of its sabbatical character, so that in the Old Testament IT FREQUENTLY APPEARS AS A PENDANT OF THE SABBATH" (pp. 135-136, article "Sabbath, Observance in Old Testament Times).
The word "pendant" means "something that hangs from something else." Let's see how often the NEW MOON and the weekly SABBATH "hang together" as the modern venacular goes. Notice 2 Kings 4:23 --
So he said, "Why are you going to him today? It is neither THE NEW MOON NOR THE SABBATH." And she said, "It is well."
Go now to 2 Chronicles 24:31 --
And at every presentation of a burnt offering to the Lord on the SABBATHS AND THE NEW MOONS and on the set feasts, by number according to the ordinance governing them, regularly before the Lord.
Let's look at 2 Chronicles 2:4:
Behold, I am building a temple for the name of the Lord my God, to dedicate it to Him, to burn before Him sweet incense, for the continual showbread, for the burnt offerings morning and evening, on THE SABBATHS, ON THE NEW MOONS, and on the set feasts of the Lord our God.
Further, in 2 Chronicles 8:13 --
According to the daily rate, offering according to the commandment of Moses, for THE SABBATHS, THE NEW MOONS, and the three appointed yearly feasts -- the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Tabernacles.
Again, in Nehemiah 10, "for the showbread, for the regular grain offering, for the regular burnt offering of THE SABBATHS, THE NEW MOONS, and the set feasts..." (verse 33).
Now read Isaiah 1:13 and 66:23 --
Bring no more futile sacrifices; incense is an abomination to Me, THE NEW MOONS, THE SABBATHS, and the calling of assemblies --"
And it shall come to pass, that from ONE NEW MOON TO ANOTHER, and from ONE SABBATH TO ANOTHER, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord.
The Babylonian Connection
Regarding this last verse found in Isaiah 66:23, author Hutton Webster, in his ground-breaking work entitled Rest Days: A Study in Early Law and Morality, remarks that,
This remarkable association of the Sabbath with the day of the new moon had been previously noticed by such acute critics as Wellhausen and Robertson Smith, who were unable to offer a satisfactory solution of the problem thus presented. When, however, the cuneiform records disclosed the fact that the Baylonian shabattum fell on the fifteenth (or fourteenth) day of the month and [was] referred to as the day of the full moon, it became clear that in these Biblical passages we have another survival of what must have been the PRIMARY MEANING of the Hebrew term shabbath. As late, then, as the eighth century B.C., popular phraseology retained a lingering trace of the original collocation [arrangement] of the new-moon and full-moon days as festival occasions characterized by abstinence from secular activities. How long-lived were the old ideas is further illustrated by the provision in Ezekiel's reforming legislation that the inner eastern gate of the new Temple in Jerusalem should be shut during the six working days, but should be opened on the Sabbath and on the new-moon day for the religious assemblage of the people. That the term shabbath, the designation of the full-moon day, should have come to be applied to EVERY SEVENTH DAY OF THE MONTH seems to be quite in accord with both Babylonian and Hebrew usage, which, as we have seen, led the month itself to be called after the new-moon day.
The Hebrew seven-day week, ending with the Sabbath, presented so obvious a resemblance to the Babylonian septenary period, which closed with an "evil day" [due to Babylonian corruption of God's true meaning for the day], that scholars have felt themselves compelled to seek its origin in Babylonia. -- New York: The MacMillan Company, 1916. Pp. 252-253.
Later on, on page 254, Professor Webster states that "the celebration of new-moon and full-moon festivals...both Babylonians and Hebrews appear to have derived from a common Semitic antiquity..." The "common Semitic antiquity" just mentioned was that of Noah through his son Shem, who carried YEHOVAH God's true calendar through the flood and made it a part of the civilization that sprung up in Babylonia.
A similar association of the weekly Sabbath with the moon's course is set forth in a seven-day period found in a Babylonian text "which specifically indicates the seventh, fourteenth, twenty-first, and twenty-eighth days as those of Sin, the moon-god" (ibid., p.228).
In the book Cuneiform Texts from Babylonian Tablets in the British Museum (pt. xxv, pl. 50 (K. 170)) we find another text which connects several rest days of the month with the moon's phases in the following order: "first day, new moon; seventh day, moon's 'kidney' (half-moon); fifteenth day, full moon."
Finally, writes, Webster, "the fifth tablet of the Babylonian 'Epic of Creation,' a work which in its original form is traced to the close of the third millennium B.C., it is told how the god Marduk, having created and set in order the heavenly bodies, then placed the moon in the sky to make known the days and divide the month [into "weeks"] with her phases. Although this interesting production, in its present mutilated state, mentions only the seventh and fourteenth days, we are entitled to believe that the original text also referred to the twenty-first and twenty-eighth days of the month" (Rest Days: A Study in Early Law and Morality, p. 229).
Going now to Babylonian Menologies and the Semitic Calendars by Stephen Langdon, we glean the following --
...the...days 7, 14, 21, [and] 28 in the [Babylonian] calendar of the seventh century obviously constitute the seven-day division of the month. This scheme is fully carried out somewhere between 1000 B.C. and 600 B.C. Here the weeks DO NOT continue in a regular cycle regardless of the new moon. Each month has four weeks, beginning with the new moon. Days 29 and 30, or in case of a 29-day month, day 29, are simply thrown out [figuratively] of the four-week system. I have NO DOUBT but that this was the old Hebrew scheme also. In other words the fourth week has one or two extra days . [This can be still be seen in the Jewish calendars of today]. Every month must begin with the first day of the first week...The institution of days 7, 14, 21, [and] 28 of every month as rest-days was, then, carried out after 1000 B.C. The idea obtained up to that period and at that time it included day 1, New Moon, days 9 + 19, and days 29, 30, Dark of the moon. All of these were thrown out to obtain a seven-day week throughout the year in the reformation of the calendar about 700 B.C. -- London: Oxford University Press, 1935. Pp. 89-90).
Continuing now, to Ezekiel 46:3, we find the same association of the Sabbath with the new moon --
Likewise the people of the land shall worship at the entrance to this gateway before the Lord on THE SABBATHS AND THE NEW MOONS.
Finally, in the Old Testament, we read this: "When will THE NEW MOON be past, that we may sell grain? And THE SABBATH, that we may trade our wheat?" (Amos 8:5).
In the New Testament we similarly find the association of the Sabbath with the new moon --
Therefore let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or A NEW MOON OR SABBATHS" (Colossians 2:16).
The association of the weekly Sabbath with the new moon is a common feature in all these verses. They are like brother and sister, husband and wife. The new moon is indeed a PENDANT -- the weekly Sabbath depends on it for its very existence since it is counted from the day after the new moon. Anybody with an open mind should be able to see this. We have seen many instances where the "new moon" (chodesh) appears together with the weekly Sabbath (shabbat). The writers of the Bible obviously understood the new moon and weekly Sabbath had the same requirements under the law and that the Sabbath was related to and in coordinated succession with the lunar seven-day cycle. They took for granted the new moon or chodesh was simply an extension of the fourth Sabbath period or the "disappearance" of the moon. To even think that two different calendars or reckonings were used -- one for the new moons and annual feast days, and another for the weekly Sabbath -- is preposterous.
Finally, it is a fact that our English word "week" "comes from the Teutonic word for change -- indicating the change of the phases of the moon" (Larry Freeman's Calendar Origin Page, p. 2-3). So even the word we commonly use today in the English language contains a distant memory of its original place in YEHOVAH God's true calendar.
Have We Been Observing the Sabbath At the Wrong Time All These Years?
The centuries-encompassing debates over which day of the week YEHOVAH God rested from His labor of recreating the earth and made holy time for mankind, have not abated. Most of professing Christianity claims Sunday is the day, while Jews and various of the Adventists and Churches of God claim YEHOVAH God set Saturday apart from the rest of the week. This article suggests that both parties are in error and that we have no way of knowing when YEHOVAH's Sabbath day falls in our Gregorian calendar. The fact is, time has been lost! But YEHOVAH God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, has planted clues in His Word the Bible -- clues that those with an understanding mind can uncover and use to reinstate YEHOVAH God's TRUE SABBATH DAY!
Was Yeshua the Messiah Really in the Grave for Three Days and Three Nights?
Most of Christianity believes the Messiah was crucified on a Friday and resurrected on a Sunday -- while a select few believe that the Messiah was put to death on a Wednesday and rose from the dead on a Saturday. Who is right? Or, are both groups wrong? A correct understanding of the original Greek and the lunar-based calendar as employed by the Jews and Christians of the 1st century, reveals that the days of the week, as we know them today, were not in use and that Yeshua died on a Wednesday and rose from the dead on a Friday as we figure the days in the pagan Gregorian calendar of today.
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