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Arno Clement Gaebelein

In the Public Domain

                            THE PROPHET MALACHI


     We know nothing of the person of this prophet. His name only is given
in the record. Critics have therefore doubted whether Malachi is really the
personal name of the prophet, and many believe that it is merely an ideal
name, given to the unknown person, on account of his message. Malachi means
"my messenger" or "the messenger of Jehovah." The Targum Jonathan, an
Aramaic paraphrase, adds after the name of Malachi, "Cujus nomen appelatur
Ezra scriba," whose name is called Ezra the Scribe, thus claiming that the
great and good Ezra is Malachi. But why should Ezra hide behind an assumed
name? This is unworthy of the man, and more so of the Holy Spirit. Many of
the leading expositors have accepted the theory that Malachi is the
official name of the prophet, whoever he may have been. One of the reasons
for this theory is that "the first verse does not contain any further
personal description, and that nothing is said about his father or place of
birth." But Obadiah and Habakkuk show the same omissions. Nor is it true
that nothing was known historically of a person by name of Malachi. The
Talmud has a statement which makes Malachi a member of the great synagogue,
to which also the two post-exilic prophets Haggai and Zechariah belonged.
Other traditions claim that he was of the tribe of Zebulun, born in Supha.
There is no reason to doubt that Malachi is the real name of the prophet.

                         The Date of His Prophecy

     This also has caused a great deal of dispute. That he prophesied after
the captivity has never been doubted. Furthermore, the reading of his
utterances makes it clear that he prophesied after Haggai and Zechariah. We
learn that the temple has been completely finished, and the temple worship
with priests has been restored for a number of years. After Ezra and
Nehemiah's beneficient influence had passed the people went into a decline,
and the conditions which the prophet rebukes were the results of
backsliding. The abuses which were corrected by Ezra and Nehemiah had taken
hold upon the people again. The exact time can hardly be fixed. It seems by
comparing Malachi 1:8 with Nehemiah 5:15 and 18 that Nehemiah was no longer
governor when Malachi exercised his office.

                          The Message of Malachi

     As the last prophetic voice of the Old Testament, Malachi, in unison
with all other prophets, announces the coming of the Messiah and Points
once more to Him. The next prophetic voice, after the four hundred silent
years, is the voice in the wilderness, the herald of the King, of whom
Malachi predicted that he should come. But the message of Malachi is
overwhelmingly condemnatory. "The great moral principle unfolded in this
book is the insensibility of the people to that which Jehovah was for them,
and to their own iniquity with respect to Jehovah--their want of reverence
for God, their despisal of Jehovah. Alas! this insensibility had reached
such a point that, when the very actions which proved their contempt were
laid before their consciences, they saw no harm in them. Nevertheless, this
did not alter the purposes and counsels of God, although it brought
judgment upon those who were guilty of it" (chapter 1:2, 6, 2:14, 3:7, 13,
Synopsis of the Bible.).

     It is unquestionably true that the spirit manifested by the people in
Malachi's day assumed later the concrete forms expressed by the two leading
sects of Judaism, when our Lord was on earth, the Pharisees and the
Sadducees. "The outward or grosser kind of idolatry had been rendered
thoroughly distasteful to the people by the sufferings of the exile; and
its place was taken by the more refined idolatry of dead-work
righteousness, and trust in the outward fulfillment of the letter of the
divine commands without any deeper confession of sins, or humiliation under
the Word and the will of God." It has been well stated that "Malachi is
like a late evening, which brings a long day to a close; but he is also the
morning dawn, which bears a glorious day in its womb." The shadows are
dark, but there is the rising of the Sun of Righteousness, still to take
place, when all shadows flee away.

     But beside the apostate masses of the people, steeped in a dead
formalism, there is seen in the book of Malachi the faithful remnant. It is
interesting to follow this remnant, we have so often mentioned in our
annotations, through the entire Jewish history, past, present and future.
There was always a godly remnant. We see that remnant in the wilderness
wandering of Israel; there was a remnant during the period of the judges,
and in every other period, like the sad days of Ahab's wicked rule, when
despondent Elijah desired to die, and the Lord informed him that there were
seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. There was a
remnant when Jerusalem was captured by Nebuchadnezzar: a remnant returned
from the captivity, and when the returned exiles degenerated, as seen in
Malachi, there were still the few left who assembled together and whom the
Lord owned.

     In Romans 11 we read that at the present time, during this age, there
is likewise a remnant according to the election of grace. It is not a small
remnant, who, during this age, turn to the Lord, believe on Christ and thus
become members of the Body of Christ, in which there is neither Jew nor
Gentile. And when the age closes, and the nation faces the final calamity
in the great tribulation, and the acceptance of the false Christ, there
will be that godly remnant, as we have so often shown in our comments on
the prophetic word.

                          The Lessons for Our Age

     The Jewish age with all its glorious manifestations of the Lord in
behalf of His people Israel, and the great revelations given by the
prophets of the Lord, did not improve in its development and become a
better age. Neither does our age improve and become better, the age in
which God has revealed His best and offers to man the riches of His graces
in the Person of His blessed Son our Lord. It ends as Old Testament times
ended, in failure and apostasy. The moral conditions of the Jews in the
days of Malachi are the moral conditions of Christendom. But as then, so
there is now, a remnant of God's own, who are faithful to Him, and whom He
acknowledges as His true Church.

                          The Division of Malachi

     We divide the prophecy of Malachi in six sections: 1. Jehovah's Love
for His People (1:1-5). 2. The Rebuke of the Priests (1:6-2:9). 3. Rebuke
of the Social Conditions (2:10-16). 4. The Announcement of the Messenger
and the Day of the Lord (3:1-6). 5. Rebuke for Defrauding the Lord
(3:7-15). 6. The Remnant and the Concluding Prophecy (3:16-4:6).

                         Analysis and Annotations

                     1. Jehovah's Love for His People

                               CHAPTER 1:1-5

     The message of Malachi begins with the sublime statement, "I have
loved you, saith Jehovah." It is the message to Israel. This love is
written large on every page of their history. A former prophet gave the
message from the Lord, "You only have I known of all the families of the
earth" (Amos 3:2). And long before that Moses had told them, "Only the Lord
had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and He chose their seed after
them, even you above all people, as it is this day" (Deut 10:15). And the
man of God in his final utterance burst out in praise, "Yea, He loved the
people" (Deut. 33:3). And this generation, brought back through His mercy
from Babylon, the generation that had listened to the marvelous words of
Haggai and Zechariah, could brazenly answer back, "Wherein hast Thou loved
us?" How deep they had sunk! Greater still is the insensibility of nominal
Christendom which rejects, yea, despises, the great love wherewith He has
loved us in the gift of His Son.

     Then the Lord in infinite patience answered them, "Was not Esau
Jacob's brother? saith Jehovah: yet I loved Jacob, and hated Esau, and laid
his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness."
This takes us back to Genesis, but in vain do we look for this statement in
that first book of the Bible. Though it is quoted also in Romans 9, it is
nowhere to be found in connection with the story of the birth of the twins.
The late scholar, William Kelly, has expressed the whole matter so well
that we can do nothing better than to quote his excellent comment. "It is
only in Malachi that He says 'Esau have I hated.' I could conceive nothing
more dreadful than to say so in Genesis. Never does Scripture represent God
as saying before the child was born and had manifested his iniquity and
proud malice, 'Esau have I hated.' There is where the mind of man is so
erroneous. It is not meant, however, that God's choice was determined by
the character of the individual. This would make man the ruler rather than
God. Not so; God's choice flows out of His own wisdom and nature. It suits
and is worthy of Himself; but the reprobation of any man and of every
unbeliever is never a question of the sovereignty of God. It is the choice
of God to do good where and how He pleases; it is never the purpose of His
will to hate any man. There is no such doctrine in the Bible. I hold,
therefore, that, while election is most clearly taught in the Scriptures,
the consequences that men draw from election, namely, the reprobation of
the non-elect, is a mere reproduction of fatalism, common to some heathen
and to all Mohammedans, the unfounded deduction of man's reasoning in
divine things." With these good words we agree perfectly. The hatred
against Esau is mentioned in this last book, because it was well-deserved,
after all the opposition and defiance of God the descendants of Esau, Edom,
had manifested. But the love wherewith Jacob was loved was undeserved. His
love for His people had been fully manifested, as well as His displeasure
against Edom by laying his mountains and heritage waste, and all their
attempts at reconstruction failed. God was against him on account of Edom's
wicked ways.

                       2. The Rebuke of the Priests

                              CHAPTER 1:6-2:9

     The priests, the religious leaders of the people, are described first
in their evil ways, and rebuked. But the rebuke includes the entire people,
for it is true, "like priests like people." The Lord called Israel to be
His firstborn son, and therefore, nationally, He is their Father. He is the
Lord, and Israel called to be His servant. But they had not honored Him, as
a son should honor the father by obedience; they did not fear Him, but
despised His Name. This charge brought forth from the side of the priests
another brazen statement, the result of their hypocritical
self-righteousness. They answered back, demanding proof of the charge by
saying, "Wherein have we despised Thy Name?" They seemed to be hardened in
their consciences, though they kept up outward appearances. Such, too, is
the religious condition in much of Christendom. Another charge follows, the
charge that they offer polluted bread, which brought forth the retort,
"Wherein have we polluted Thee?" They had considered the table of the Lord
contemptible; instead of offering upon the altar the very best, as demanded
in the law, they showed their contempt by bringing the blind, the lame and
the sick, a thing which they would never have done to an earthly governor,
who would have been sorely displeased at such an insult and rejected their
person on account of it. They had treated the Lord of Hosts shamefully in
their worship. Is it different in Christendom? Under such conditions, even
if they were to pray to Him to be gracious, would He, or could He, regard
their persons and listen to their prayers (verse 9)?

     Verse 10 has often been interpreted to mean that the priests were
covetous and demanded money for every little service, the opening of doors
and the kindling of a fire. It has another meaning. The better rendering
is, "O, that some among you would even shut the doors of the temple." The
doors are the doors which lead from the outer court into the holy part. The
Lord declares that it would be more profitable if they would shut these
doors, and kindle no longer a fire upon the altar for nought; in other
words, He wishes that the whole outward worship might be stopped. The last
sentence of this verse shows this is the correct interpretation. "I have no
pleasure in you, saith the Lord of Hosts, neither will I accept an offering
at your hand." Nor has He today any pleasure in the unscriptural worship of
ritualistic Christendom, or the dead, Spiritless worship of an apostate

     The next verse (verse 11) is a prophecy. Is it fulfilled today, during
this age? We think not; it refers to the millennial age. Critics say that
the passage refers to the worship of God among the heathen, under different
names, as expressed lines by a poet (Pope):

          Father of all! in every age,
          In every clime adored,
          By saint, by savage, and by sage,
          Jehovah, Jove or Lord.

     Canon S.D. Driver says on this passage, "It is a tribute to the truer
and better side of heathen religion." It is no such thing. But why should
it not be applied to this gospel age, in which among all nations His Name
is known and called upon? There is a statement which excludes this
interpretation: "and in every place incense shall be offered unto My Name,
and a pure offering." The Romish Catholic Church uses this passage as one
of her proof texts for that abomination, the Mass. In the canons of the
Council of Trent we read that "the Mass is that pure sacrifice which the
Lord predicted by Malachi should be offered to His Name in every place."
Another prominent writer declares that it is "the bloodless sacrifice of
the New Testament, the holy sacrifice of the mass." All this is Satanic
invention. It is true the Name of the Lord is known among the nations, but
no incense, sacrifice or offering is connected with the worship of the Lord
in the true Church. For His heavenly people the earthly sacrifices and
incense, offering and priesthood, are all passed; and more than that, these
things would be inconsistent with their heavenly standing and calling. It
will be different during the age to come, the Millennium. The last chapters
of Ezekiel reveal the fact that with the millennial worship in the
millennial temple incense and offerings are connected. The prophecy of the
eleventh verse will be fulfilled during the millennium. Now His Name is not
universally great among the Gentiles; it will be otherwise when the Lord
Jesus Christ has come back.

     Then follow additional expostulations on account of these conditions.
In the second chapter the priests are again addressed. If they do not hear,
do not lay it to heart, if their consciences are not aroused, to give glory
unto His Name, He would curse their blessings; yea, they had been cursed
already; He would punish them severely for their contempt. Levi and the
covenant with him is especially mentioned, on account of his faithfulness
at the time when the golden calf had been set up by Israel in the
wilderness, in contrast with Aaron who gave way to the demand of the
people. But what a contrast between Levi and the priests in Malachi's day!
For the priests' lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law
at his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of Hosts. Such is the
calling of the priest. But they had departed out of the way; they caused
many to stumble at the law; they had corrupted the covenant of Levi.
Therefore the Lord made them contemptible and base before all the people.

                  3. The Rebuke of the Social Conditions

                              CHAPTER 2:10-16

     The priests were corrupt, and with their bad example the people were
likewise corrupt. It is the prophet who speaks in verse 10. The One Father
was Jehovah, with whom the nation was in covenant relation. They had one
Father, and they were one as a nation. By profaning that covenant they
dealt treacherously every man against his brother. The abomination in
social life, by which the covenant was profaned, and the holiness of the
Lord outraged, was the marriage with the daughters of the heathen. They had
put away their own Israelitish wives in order to enter into these unholy
alliances. The Jew acted faithlessly toward his brother, both when he
contracted a marriage with a heathen woman, and when he put away his
legitimate wife, and thereby desecrated the covenant of the fathers, i.e.,
the covenant that Jehovah made with their fathers when He chose them to be
a separated people. Those who have done this will surely be cut off. Verse
13 describes the weeping and the tears of the abandoned Jewish wives; it is
the same condition, only worse, which is recorded in Ezra and Nehemiah. All
was an abomination unto the Lord. Over fifty years ago a writer called
attention to the divorce evil in the United States. He wrote then:

     The frequency of divorce in the United States, so that in one of the
States divorce is allowed for "misconduct," reveals the same state of
things existing now, as was here condemned by Jehovah, and must bring with
it the same evils, and the same punishment. What tongue can adequately
tell, what heart conceive, the untold misery from this cause, especially to
the deserted wives, and the children left without a mother's care! How
little is the indissoluble nature of the marriage relation regarded! and
the fact, that the Lord was the witness of it, and will be a swift witness
against those who violate it! The Saviour only allows of one cause of
divorce, and regards divorce for any other as adultery.

     Since then this evil has increased a hundredfold or more among
professing Christians, so that it threatens to undermine the home and all
family life. It is the sign of the rapid disintegration of our nation.

     And yet rebuked for these social conditions and wicked deeds, they
could ask another, "Wherefore?" They were so hardened that they could not
see why they were to blame. The difficult fifteenth verse refers to the
marriage relation, in which God makes of twain one. He made the woman for
man, though He had the residue of the Spirit, the creative power by which
He might have made many women for one man. And wherefore one? that is, one
woman for the man--that He might seek a godly seed, to perpetuate those who
are godly, which is counteracted by divorce, such as they had practiced. It
seemed as if the remnant who feared Him were being influenced by these
corrupt practices, hence the warning. "Therefore take heed to your spirit,
and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth."

       4. The Announcement of the Messenger and the Day of the Lord

                               CHAPTER 3:1-6

     In this chapter and in the next we have the prophecies of Malachi as
to the Messiah and His forerunner. The last verse of the preceding chapter
belongs rightly to this chapter. "Ye have wearied the Lord with your words.
Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied Him? When ye say, Every one that doeth
evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delighteth in them; or, Where
is the God of judgment?" It is this last bold question, produced by their
arrogant pride and self security which opens the way for the prophetic
message in this chapter. "Where is the God of judgment?" The answer is,
"Behold, I will send My messenger, and he shall prepare the way before Me;
and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the
messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in; behold, He shall come, saith
the Lord of hosts." The first announcement of the messenger, who goes
before the Lord, is quoted in Matthew 11:10; Mark 1:2; Luke 1:76 and 7:27.
Isaiah, too, had spoken a similar prophecy in chapter 40:3. This prophecy
was fulfilled in the person of John the Baptist, as the herald of His first
coming; still this prophecy considered in the light of the prophecy in the
next chapter, concerning the coming of Elijah, remains yet to be fully
accomplished. John the Baptist was not Elijah; Elijah is still to come and
do his work preceding the coming of the Lord. The messenger is followed by
the Lord, the Messenger, or Angel (the meaning of the Hebrew word) of the
Covenant. The word Lord is here the word Adon with the article, always used
of God. It is the Lord God who comes, and His official title is "The Angel
of the Covenant." Many expositors have blundered here in that they imagined
the word covenant means the new covenant of which the Lord Jesus is the
Mediator (Heb. 9:15). But it is not the truth. The Messenger of the
Covenant is the same "Angel of the Lord" who appeared frequently in
Israel's past history, and generally in the form of a human being. The
Angel of the Lord is the Son of God in His preincarnation manifestations,
and He is announced here as the Angel of the Covenant. The nation believed
in His coming, and in the question "Where is the God of judgment?" they had
asked for Him. That there was a partial fulfillment of this prophecy when
our Lord, the Messiah of Israel, came unexpectedly in the temple, must not
be overlooked, but that it was the fulfillment of these words is not true.
It will be accomplished in the day of His Return, preceded by another
messenger. Their question "Where is the God of judgment?" will then be
fully answered, and what it will be we read in the next two verses (verses
2 and 3). He will purge the nation of the dross, beginning with the sons of
Levi. It is the same as in Zechariah 13:9. John the Baptist announced the
same also, and when he gave his inspired testimony of the purging of the
threshing floor and the burning of the chaff with unquenchable fire (Matt.
3:12) he referred not to the first coming of Christ, but to His second

     As the result of this judgment in store for the nation, when the
sorcerers, the adulterers, the false swearers, and the oppressors will be
dealt with, we read in the fourth verse "Then shall the offering of Judah
and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord, as in the days of old, and as in
former years."

                     5. Rebuke for Defrauding The Lord

                              CHAPTER 3:7-15

     Another rebuke is administered. They were alway a stiff-necked people,
never obedient to His ordinances. His gracious call to return unto Him, and
the promise that He will return unto them is answered by "Wherein shall we
return?" They had robbed God of what was His right. The tithes and
offerings which He demanded in the law covenant had been withheld. On
account of it the blessing was lacking and curse was upon the nation. Then
follows a command to bring all the tithes into the storehouse, the
challenge to prove Him, the assurance of abundant blessing. It is strange
that even those who have a good knowledge of truth, the dispensations and
the heavenly position of a Christian, should fall back upon this verse and
claim that it is binding and should be practiced among believers. For a
system like Seventh Day Adventism, a system which has perverted the gospel
of grace, which denies God's oath-bound covenants with Israel, which claims
to be the true Israel, the system to which applies the term "the synagogue
of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not;" for such a cult to make
this command a binding law is not surprising. But well taught believers
should never look upon this passage as in any way in force today. True
Christian giving, like everything else in the life and service of a true
believer, must be done, not by law but through grace, under the direction
of the Holy Spirit. Nowhere in the New Testament is there anything said
about tithing. A believer must be a cheerful giver, giving as the Lord has
prospered him, communicating to others, doing good, remembering the poor,
ministering in temporal things to those who minister in spiritual things;
but all this giving must be under the direction of the Spirit of God.

     The day will come when His earthly people will minister to the wants
of the Lord's house (a Jewish term), so that there will be an abundant
supply for sacrifices. That will be in the future day of their restoration,
when the devourer will be rebuked (verse 11). It is at that time, when the
millennium has come, that all nations will call them blessed, when they
shall be a delightsome land (Isa. 62:4). This has never been since it was
written by the pen of Malachi.

                6. The Remnant and the Concluding Prophecy

                             CHAPTER 3:16-4:6

     In the midst of all these moral conditions, the apostasy of the
masses, we find a pleasing picture of a godly portion, whom the Lord
mentions in a special manner. There were those who feared the Lord. They
had no sympathy with the wicked practices of their brethren; they did not
share the contempt and unbelief manifested by the rank and file of the
people. They were drawn together by the Spirit of God; they had fellowship
one with another. They came together to think upon His Name, to honor Him,
to read His Word, to call unto the Lord. And the Lord heard; He was pleased
with them, and He is represented as recording their names in the Book of
Remembrance, the bookkeeping in glory (Psa. 56:8). He has a special promise
for such. "And they shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day
when I make up My jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own
son that serveth him."

     Such a remnant of godly ones was in existence in Malachi's day, and
when they passed away others took their places. The Lord preserved such a
godly seed in every generation throughout the four hundred silent years.
And when that silence was broken, by the Angel's message to the ministering
priest Zechariah, we see such a remnant on the threshold of the New
Testament. Good old Anna and Simeon, the shepherds and others belonged to
this waiting, God-fearing remnant. And so it will be before His second
coming. A similar remnant will then be on earth awaiting His glorious

     It is so in Christendom. Departure from the faith soon manifested
itself in the professing church. Decline followed decline, till the awful
Romish apostasy was consummated. But in every generation the Lord kept a
people separated unto Himself. The Reformation came, followed by revivals
and recovery of truth. But the Spirit of God does not predict that this age
ends in universal acceptance of the truth and universal righteousness and
peace, but He predicts a universal apostasy. But even then He has a remnant
true to Him. That remnant is seen prophetically in the Church message to
Philadelphia (Rev. 3).

     In the fourth chapter is the final message of the Old Testament
Prophetic Word. The day, that coming day of the Lord, so often mentioned in
every portion of the Old Testament, is once more brought before us. It is
the day of fire, the day of reckoning with the wicked, who will be consumed
like stubble. But that day brings not only the fire of judgment, the
winding up of "man's day," the dethronement of evil, but it will be the day
of the sunrise. "The Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His
wings." The Sun of Righteousness is the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the
beautiful symbol of His personal, visible, and glorious coming to usher in
that day, which will last for a thousand years, in which He will rule in
power and glory. The Old Testament knows nothing of His coming as the
Morning Star. That coming is exclusively revealed in the New Testament in
relation with the Church. The Morning Star precedes the sunrise. Even so,
before that day comes, before the great tribulation, with wrath poured out,
He comes for His saints as the Morning Star. The Church does not wait for
the rising of the sun, but for the rising of the Morning Star. While the
world sleeps, and the world-church dreams its idle dreams, true believers
look for the Morning Star. Some day we shall see that glorious Morning
Star, when suddenly He descends with that long promised shout.

     When the Sun of Righteousness arises, He will bring healing and
blessing. His waiting earthly people, the remnant, will be filled with joy
and gambol as calves, while the wicked will be trodden under foot.

     The whole chapter is a future prophecy. While there has been a partial
fulfillment of the first verse of the third chapter, everything in this
concluding chapter awaits its fulfillment. Elijah the prophet is announced.
John the Baptist came in the Spirit and power of Elijah, but he was not the
Elijah promised here. If ye will receive it, said our Lord, this is Elijah
who should come. It was a testimony to faith and not the fulfillment of
Malachi's prophecy. If the Jews had accepted Christ, John would have been
Elijah. Our Lord bears witness to this. "Elias truly shall come first and
restore all things. But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and
they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise
shall also the Son of man suffer of them." When the age closes another one
will appear, the Elijah announced by Malachi, who does his work of
restoration before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
His work will be carried on among the people Israel. Deceivers and
impostors have occasionally arisen who claimed to be this Elijah; the most
prominent in recent years is the Dowieite delusion of Zion City. Such is
the havoc produced by not dividing the Word of Truth rightly.

     The close of the Old Testament prophetic Word is majestically solemn.
In the beginning of the Old Testament stands written the sin and the curse
which came upon the race through the fall of man. The final testimony in
Malachi speaks of Him who comes to take the curse upon Himself, the
promised Christ; who comes to deal with the wicked, who comes to bless and
to remove that curse. The New Testament which follows tells us of Him and
of His matchless work, the fullness of redemption and the all-sufficiency
of Grace. And the final New Testament book shows the consummation, the
coming judgments, the righteous judgments of the Lord, and the fulfillment
of all "which was spoken by His holy prophets;" ending with the great
words, "Surely I come quickly! Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!"

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