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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
November 18, 2007
The Book of Joshua
In Genesis 15 when God ratified His covenant with Abraham concerning his future and the lands that would be given to him, the Lord also informed Abraham “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. 14 “But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve; and afterward they will come out with many possessions. 15 “And as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. 16 “Then in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.” (See: Abram, the Friend of God – Genesis 12-15 8/12/07)
That prophecy had now come to pass. Abraham’s descendants were enslaved and oppressed in Egypt, and God did judge that nation for it, and when they left they did come out with the wealth of Egypt. We learned all those things in our study of Exodus. Because of their stubborn refusal to believe the Lord, they would not go up to take the land resulting in the Lord condemning the first generation to wander in the wilderness for forty years until all those 20 years old and older died off. (See: Consequences of Rebellion – Numbers. 11/4//07). Near the end of those forty years the second generation conquered the promised lands on the east side of the Jordan and Moses instructed them in the law that it might go well with them to live in God’s blessings instead of His curses. (See: How to Live in God’s Blessing – Deuteronomy – 11/11/07). As we begin our study of the book of Joshua this morning, the nation is camped where Moses gave his final message on the east side of the Jordan. They were ready to begin the conquest of the remaining lands.
The book of Joshua is divided into two major sections. The first 12 chapters cover the preparation and conquest of the land. Chapters 13-21 cover the division of the land, and chapters 22-24 are an appendix that includes Joshua’s farewell address at Shechem to the leaders of Israel and their commitment to the covenant.
The theme of Joshua is the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise to plant Israel in Canaan through their obedience. Moses had made it very clear to them before he died that the Lord would bless them in the land if they obeyed and would curse them if they did not. In the book of Joshua we will see both the blessings that followed great faith and the problems caused when they were not careful to do all the Lord commanded.
Preparation for Conquest (Joshua 1-5)
Joshua Assumes Command (Joshua 1)
The book begins with Joshua assuming command after the death of Moses. The Lord charged Joshua with leading the people across the Jordan to conquer the remaining lands promised to them (vs. 2-4). He also encouraged Joshua with His promise to be with him as He was with Moses and that no man would be able to stand before him (vs. 5). Joshua was to be (vs. 6-7) “Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. “Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go”
The Lord also commanded Joshua (vs 8) “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” This same principle is found in Psalm 1 in describing the blessed man, and so it applies to anyone that will do it.
Joshua then began the preparations of the people by assembling the valiant men of the Reubenites, Gadites and the half-tribe of Manesseh to cross with the rest of them while their wives and children remained behind (vs. 10-15). The people committed themselves to following Joshua and that they would put to death anyone that rebelled against him (vs. 16-18).
The Spies and Rahab (Joshua 2)
As with any good military operation it is important to know the strengths and weaknesses of your enemy, so Joshua sent two spies into the land with special orders to view Jericho. When they arrived there they lodged at the home of a harlot named Rahab. This would have been an attempt to avoid notice, but the king of Jericho was told about it anyway.
The king sent word to Rahab to bring them out, but she told the king that while the men had been there they had left at dark and she did not know where they had gone. The truth is that she had hidden them on the roof and covered them with stalks of flax. After the king’s men had gone, she got the spies and let them down over the wall by rope and instructed them to hide in the hills for three days to avoid the king’s men that were looking for them.
James 2:25 cites Rahab’s actions as a work of faith, and some people argue against that saying, “how could it have been faith since she lied to the king’s men.” Her lying was not an act of faith. Her act of faith was placing herself at peril from the king by hiding the men, and she did so because of what she believed about the God of Israel and what the future held. Prior to hiding the men she made a covenant with them telling them in verse 9 that she knew the Lord had given them the land. She went on to explain that they had heard what the Lord had done in Egypt and what they had done to the kings on the east side of the Jordan. Their hearts had melted and there was no longer any courage left in any man. She then said in verse 11, “for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.” It was for that reason she made a covenant with them that since she had dealt kindly with them, that they would deal kindly with her and her family by sparing them. They agreed to do so and had her mark her house with a scarlet thread and promised that all who were in that house would be spared, but anyone outside the house would have their blood on their own hands.
When the spies returned to Joshua they related all they had seen and experienced concluding their report saying, “Surely the Lord has given all the land into our hands, and all the inhabitants of the land, moreover, have melted away before us” (vs. 24) The words of Rahab had encouraged them about what God had already done to make the inhabitants of the land fearful and so were confident about what the Lord would do in the future.
The Jordan is Crossed (Joshua 3)
Joshua rose early in the morning and they moved to the banks of the Jordan river where they camped for three days. The leaders went through the camp giving careful instructions about the way in which they would cross the river. In any normal military situation, a river is a natural defense barrier and would have been a good place for the inhabitants of Canaan to make a stand against Israel. But they did not. Joshua would have them cross in such a way that it demonstrated their trust in God, and it would be accomplished by a miracle that would build their confidence that the Lord was with Joshua as He had been with Moses.
Instead of the military making the river crossing first to prepare the way, the Levites would go first carrying the Ark of God into the middle of the Jordan. In addition, everyone else was to stay 2,000 cubits (1,000 yards) which would leave them vulnerable if attacked. Also, there was no preparation of weapons. Instead, they were to consecrate themselves. Spiritual, not military preparation would take priority.
Joshua told them that as soon as the feet of the priests carrying the ark touched the water, that even though the Jordan was at flood stage, the waters flowing down would rise up in one heap and the lower waters would be cut off so that they would cross on dry ground. As soon as the priests entered the Jordan it happened just as Joshua said and the waters were cut off at the city of Adam so that “the priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan while all Israel crossed on dry ground, until all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan” (vs. 17).
The Memorial Stones (Joshua 4)
After they had crossed the Jordan, the Lord spoke to Joshua and directed him to have one man from each tribe go back to the middle of the Jordan to the place where the priests stood and pick up a stone and carry it on his shoulder to the camp and stack them. He explained the purpose to the people in verses 21-24, “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ 22 then you shall inform your children, saying, ‘Israel crossed this Jordan on dry ground.’ 23 “For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed, just as the Lord your God had done to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed; 24 that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, so that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”
It is helpful to set aside mementos of the Lord working in your own life that will cause others to ask about them. This gives you opportunity to give praise the Lord before them and in that way also build up trust in God.
After all the people had crossed and the memorial stones had been taken up, the priests came up out of the Jordan river bed with the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord. As soon as their feet were on the banks of the river, the waters of the Jordan returned to their place at flood stage. It was five days shy of 41 years since they had left Egypt.
Keeping the Covenant Rites (Joshua 5)
At this point the military situation is still not favorable to Israel. They are encamped before Jericho with the Jordan river at their backs. If they are attacked, there is no where to retreat. But this would not be a war fought and won by superior military strength and strategy but by their obedience to the Lord. When the kings of the land heard about how the Lord had dried up the waters of the Jordan, their “hearts melted and there was no spirit in them any longer” (vs. 1).
The commitment to obey the Lord also resulted in the next action that Joshua took with the people. During the years of their wilderness wandering circumcision was not practiced resulting in a generation of men who had not undergone that rite of the Abrahamic covenant (See: Isaac, The Son of Promise – Genesis 17 8/19/07)). They would not proceed any farther until that was done. From a military standpoint this was utter foolishness, for it was disabling the entire army in front of the enemy, but from a spiritual standpoint, it was absolutely essential as part of being obedient to God in setting themselves apart as His people. They could only do this because of their trust that the Lord would keep all His promises.
Four days after they crossed the Jordan they celebrated their first Passover in the promised land. They also ate some of the produce of the land for the first time including unleavened cakes and parched grain. The manna ceased the next day. From that day forward they would eat from the yield of the land of Canaan.
The Lord also sent His angel, the captain of the host of the Lord, to encourage Joshua. When Joshua met him and challenged him whether he be friend or foe, the angel identified himself and instructed Joshua to remove his sandals because the place he was standing was holy (vs. 13-15). The battles to come would be dependent upon their being set apart to God.
Conquest of the Land (Joshua 6-12)
The Conquest of Jericho (Joshua 6)
The first city to be conquered was the strategic city Jericho which stood at the lower end of the Jordan valley a little north of the Dead Sea. The usual military method of conquering a city was siege and assault. Cut off your opponent, weaken him through starvation while battering down his walls. They would not conquer Jericho in such a manner. Instead the men of war were to march around the city once each day for six days. In the middle of them would be the priests caring the ark of the covenant and in front of them would be seven priests blowing on rams’ horns. However, no one else was make any noise by shouting or even speaking until they were specifically commanded to do so on the seventh day. For six days they made their procession once around the city each day.
On the seventh day they went around the city six times in the same manner and then on the seventh trip around Joshua reminded them that the city would be under the ban and nothing in it was to be taken and kept for themselves. All the articles of worth were holy to the Lord and were to be put in the treasury of the Lord. They were to destroy all who lived in the city except those with Rahab whose home was marked with the scarlet thread. Joshua instructed the people to, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city.” The priest blew the horns and the people shouted and when they did so, the walls of Jericho fell down flat so that each man could go up straight ahead into the city, and they utterly destroyed it and burned it with fire.
The archeological evidence confirms the story including that the city had high walls from which the spies had to be let down; that it was taken quickly after the spring harvest (evidenced by large storage rooms filled with grain); that the walls collapsed (some archeologist think it was due to an earthquake); that there was a large mound of earth around the city so that they had to go “up into the city”; that it was burned with fire (there is a thick layer of ash and debris on top of the fallen walls); and carbon 14 dating places the burned material to about the time Joshua would have been there. (Follow link & search for “Jericho”)
Rahab and all those with her were protected. She ended up marrying a Jewish man named Salmon and gave birth to Boaz who was the great-grandfather of King David. She had placed her faith in the Lord, God of Israel, and He blessed her for it.
Joshua made all of them take an oath and placed a curse on the person that would rebuild Jericho. Their first-born would did when the foundation was laid and their youngest would die when the gates would be set. That curse came true in 1 Kings 16:34 when Hiel the Betheilite rebuilt Jericho.
Defeat at Ai (Joshua 7)
Israel had made a great conquest, but this was followed by a humiliating defeat. Ai was a small city of about 12,000 that needed to be conquered next. Joshua sent men to spy it out, and when they returned Joshua decided to only send three thousand men to conquer it. Instead, the men of Ai chased them away and struck down 36 of them. This resulted in Joshua and the elders of Israel tearing their clothes and putting dust on their head in grief as they fell before the Lord to petition Him about what had happened. They were fearful their enemies would be encouraged by the defeat and would now rise up against them and destroy them.
The Lord revealed that the problem that was that they had not kept the covenant and that some of the things under the ban had been stolen. This resulted in Joshua calling on the people to consecrate themselves and in discovering who was guilty of transgressing the Lord’s command. It turned out to be a man named Achan. Joshua said to him (vs. 19), “My son, I implore you, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and give praise to Him; and tell me now what you have done. Do not hide it from me.” Confession brings glory to God. Achan did so and the gold and silver he had stolen was found in his tent. Achan’s confession was the right thing to do, but it did not remove him from the consequences of his sin. He and everything that belong to him were taken to the valley of Achor were they were stoned, everything burned and then a heap of stones raised over it all as a testimony to the event.
Achan’s disobedience of the Lord led to the defeat of the army and to the destruction of himself, his family and everything that had belonged to him. Your sin usually effects more than just yourself.
Conquest of Ai (Joshua 8)
Now that the sin in their midst had been dealt with, they were able to resume the conquest of the land. This time they followed the Lord’s specific instructions which included sending all the men of war into battle and setting up an ambush, which was carried out exactly the way the Lord had commanded. The men of Ai were drawn out by a feigned retreat so that the city was left open. The men in ambush then destroyed the city and the men of Ai were surrounded and destroyed. Obedience to the Lord resulted in victory.
Joshua then fulfilled the command the Lord had given them through Moses to build and altar on Mount Ebal and set up stones there on which the law of Moses had been written. All the words of the law as well as the blessings and curses were read with the half of the assembly on Mount Ebal and the other half on Mount Gerizim (See Deuteronomy 27-28).
A Hasty Covenant (Joshua 9)
Things were now going well for them again, but a lack of diligence in seeking the Lord led them to being deceived by the Gibeonites, one of the nations that was to be utterly destroyed. When the Gibeonites heard about what Joshua did to Jericho and Ai, they came up with a plan to make a covenant with them. They would pretend to come from a far away country by wearing worn out clothing and using worn out equipment and carrying old food. Joshua did not consult with the Lord first, so their deception worked. Joshua and the elders made a covenant with them to let them live. Even after they found out the truth they kept their word and let them live, but the Gibeonites would become servants who would cut their wood and haul their water.
Conquest of the South (Joshua 10)
The other nations were not happy about the covenant the Gibeonites had made with Israel and five Amorite kings of the cities of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon made an alliance with one another to attack Gibeon. When they did, the Gibeonites sent word to Joshua for help (vs. 1-5). The Lord told Joshua “Do not fear them, for I have given them into your hands; not one of them shall stand before you” (vs. 8).
Joshua mobilized the army and made a forced march from Gilgal to Gibeon that night surprising the Amorite kings. The Lord confounded them before Israel and the slew them from Gibeon through Beth-horon to Azekah and Makkedah. Along the way the Lord struck them with large hailstones so that more died by the hail than by the sword. It would take time to fight over such a long distance so Joshua prayed, “O sun, stand still at Gibeon, And O moon in the valley of Aijalon” (vs. 12). And the Lord answered the prayer so that “the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, Until the nation avenged themselves of their enemies” (vs. 13-14). There has been no day like that before it or after it. People are prone to speculate how this could occur, but there is no understanding of how the Lord did it, only that He did.
After that day they went on to conquer in succession the cities of Makkedah, Lignah, Lachish (defeating Horam the king of Gezer at the same time), Eglon, Hebron, Debir and then all the land, the hill country, the Negev, the lowlands and the slopes from Kadesh-Barnea to Gaza and all the country of Goshen as far as Gibeon (vs. 29-42). Joshua and the army then returned to Gilgal.
Conquest of the North (Joshua 11)
The kings to the north then formed an alliance to fight against Israel, and the Lord once again encouraged Joshua saying, “Do not be afraid because of them, for tomorrow at this time I will deliver all of them slain before Israel; you shall hamstring their horses and burn their chariots with fire” (vs. 6). Joshua and the army moved out and came upon the enemy alliance at the waters of Merom and the Lord delivered them into the hands of Israel. They then struck the northern cities and lands and utterly destroyed them as far as Great Sidon and Misrephoth-maim and the valley of Mizpeh. After that they turned back and struck Hazor and all the cities of the kings that had come against them. Joshua 11:16,17 summarize, “Thus Joshua took all that land: the hill country and all the Negev, all that land of Goshen, the lowland, the Arabah, the hill country of Israel and its lowland 17 from Mount Halak, that rises toward Seir, even as far as Baal-gad in the valley of Lebanon at the foot of Mount Hermon. And he captured all their kings and struck them down and put them to death.” This included the Anakim that had so frightened that first generation. There were only a few left in Gaza, Gath and Ashod (vs. 21-22). Joshua had conquered a total of 31 kings (Joshua 12).
Joshua 11:23 states, “Joshua had taken the whole land according to all that the Lord had spoken to Moses.” Joshua 21:45 adds, “Not one of the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.” Contrary to the claims of people with certain theological positions, these verses do not in any way support the idea that God could be done with Israel so that the church could replace her. The Lord did and does have more promises to fulfill to her. These verses refer to the initial conquering of the land as the Lord had told Moses and which included the fact that the nations devoted to destruction would be driven out little by little lest the wild beast grow too numerous (See Exodus 23:30 & Deuteronomy 7:22). There were still areas that were to be conquered and possessed (See Joshua 13:1-7). The people were obedient to the Lord and He fought for them and enabled them to conquer the land as He had promised. If they would remain so, then the rest of the lands would also be conquered.
Division of the Land (Joshua 13-21)
The lands were then divided up. The tribes of Reuben, Gad and half of the tribe of Manasseh had received their inheritance on the east side of the Jordan (Joshua 13). Caleb had also received his special inheritance of Hebron as Moses had promised him in Deuteronomy 1:36 (Joshua 14). The tribes of Judah, Ephraim, the remaining half of Manasseh, Benjamin, Simeon, Zebulun, Issachar, Asher, Naphtali and Dan received their inheritance on the west side of the Jordan (Joshua 15-19). Within those lands three more cities of refuge (Kedesh, Shechem & Hebron) were set aside to compliment the three on the east side of the Jordan (Bezer, Ramoth, and Golan). These were to be a safe place for anyone that killed a person unintentionally (Joshua 20. See also Numbers 35:14-15).
The Levites did not inherit any land for the Lord was their inheritance. Instead they were given 48 specific cities to live in along with their pasture lands for their animals. These cities were divided among the various families of the Levites by lot (Joshua 21).
The Altar of Witness (Joshua 22)
Afer all the lands had been conquered and divided, the men of war from the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh returned to the east side of the Jordan. They went home with very much spoil including livestock, silver, gold, bronze, iron and clothes.
After they crossed the Jordan, they built a large altar there. This almost caused a civil war when the other tribes heard about it and came to confront them about what they thought was an unfaithful act of setting up an alternative place of worship other than at the Tabernacle (See Leviticus 17:8-9). However, the matter was quickly resolved when they explained that the purpose of the altar was not for worship, but as a witness to future generations that the tribes on the east side of the Jordan were also part of Israel and had a portion in the Lord. And so it was that the altar was named, “witness.”
Joshua’s Farewell Address & Charge (Joshua 23-24)
When Joshua was advanced in years he called for the elders, heads, judges and officers of the tribes to come to him at Shechem. He reminded them of all the Lord had done for them and warned them to keep and do all that was written in the book of the law of Moses and not to associate with any of the nations that remained or serve their gods. They were to cling to the Lord alone. If they did not, then the Lord would not continue to drive them out, but instead they would become snare, a trap, a whip on their sides and thorns in their eyes until they themselves would perish or be driven off the land God had given them.
Joshua then charged them to chose whom they would serve, either the Lord or some other god, but as for him and his house, he would serve the Lord (Joshua 24:14-15). They answered that they too would not forsake the Lord but would serve only Him. He warned them again that if they did forsake the Lord, then the Lord would turn against them, do them harm and consume them. They again affirmed they would serve only the Lord. So Joshua made a covenant with them that day and set up a large stone under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the Lord as a witness.
Joshua 24:31 states that “Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua and all the days of the elders who survived Joshua, and had known all the deeds of the Lord which He had done for Israel.” Even after Joshua died at 110 years old, they remained faithful to the Lord and experienced His blessings as did all those that had experienced what the Lord had done for Israel in the conquest of the land. They were the generation that was the example of what the Lord would do for those that would follow Him.
Joshua’s final charge is one that is still fitting today. We must choose whom we will serve whether it be the Lord God or something else. We will then experience either the Lord’s blessing as they did, or the Lord’s curses if we choose to forsake Him. What is your choice?
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help.
Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up later. 2) Count how many times Joshua is mentioned in the sermon. Talk with your parents about Joshua’s example and how you could be like him.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What is the them of the book of Joshua? What is the key to prosperity and success? (Psalm 1). Who hid the spies and why? How is she an example of faith so that James would reference her in James 2:25? What did she believe/ What did she risk? Why was crossing the Jordan a military risk? What miracle occurred in the crossing? What was its effect on the Israelites? The Canaanites? What was the purpose of the 21 stones? What have you don / could you do to fulfill a similar purpose? What was the danger in circumcising all the men after crossing the Jordan? What was the danger of not doing it? What was unusual about the way Jericho was conquered? What archeological evidence supports the Biblical account? What became of Rahab? Why were they defeated at Ai? Ho did Achan give praise to God’ What happened to him? Explain both the military and spiritual reasons Ai was defeated the second time? How die the Gibeonites deceive Joshua? Why were they wise in doing so? What miracles (at least 2) enabled Joshua to defeat the Southern Amorite alliance? Trace on a map the route Joshua would have taken in defeating the southern kings and conquering their territory. Do the same for the conquest of the northern alliance and their cities and lands. How is it that all the land was conquered (11:23), and yet not all the land was taken (23:5-13)? Map out how the lands were divided among the tribes? Why did the construction of an altar almost cause a civil war? What prevented it? What warnings did Joshua give them that still apply today? Who have you chosen to serve? How is that service being demonstrated? How long did the nation of Israel continue to serve the Lord?
Sermon Notes – November 18, 2007
Conquest – The Book of Joshua
The first generation wandered in the wilderness for ___________ and died because of rebellion
The second generation already conquered the _____side of the Jordan & were ready to finish the conquest
Chapters 1-12 : Preparation and Conquest of the _______________
Chapters 13-21 : Division of the ____________
Chapters 22-24 : ___________
The fulfillment of the Lord’s promise to plant Israel in Canaan through their _____________
Preparation for Conquest (Joshua 1-5)
Joshua Assumes Command (Joshua 1)
Joshua was to be _______________________for the Lord would be with him as He was with Moses
Prosperity and success would be dependent upon _______________ to God’s word (1:8, Psalm 1)
The Spies & Rahab (Joshua 2)
Rahab hid & protected the spies because she believed the Lord was _______________________ (2:11)
The spies made a covenant to protect her and her family. A ______________ would mark her house
The people of the land were __________because of what the Lord had done
The Jordan is Crossed (Joshua 3)
First, they were to carry the Ark of the Covenant into the ______________
Spiritual, not military ____________ would take priority
The waters the Jordan were cut off at __________ and they all crossed on________ ground
`The Memorial Stones (Joshua 4)
One man from each tribe picked up a stone from the Jordan and stacked them as a ___________
The ________ _ returned to their place when the priests left the bed of the Jordan river.
Keeping the Covenant Rites (Joshua 5)
The kings of the land were ________ because they heard the Lord had dried up the waters of the Jordan
Joshua ____________ his army in front of the enemy because _________to God was essential to victory
Conquest of Ai (Joshua 9)
__________________to the Lord’s instructions resulted in victory over Ai
They built an altar and read the law, curses & blessings at Mt. Ebal & Gerazim (________________)
A Hasty Covenant (Joshua 10)
Joshua did not consult with _____________ first, so the Gibeonites deceived him and made a covenant
Conquest of the South (Joshua 10)
_________ Amorite kings attacked the Gibeonites sparking quick military action by Israel
More of the Amorites died by __________ sent by the Lord than by the sword
Joshua prayed for the Sun and moon to ____________ until they defeated their enemies.
Conquest of the North (Joshua 11)
Joshua defeated the northern alliance at __________ and systematically destroyed their cities
Division of the Land (Joshua 13-21
The lands were divided by lot. Caleb received his inheritance at _______. The Levitical cities were chosen
The Altar of Witness (Joshua 22)
The eastern tribes built an ________ for the purpose of being a witness that they were part of Israel.
Joshua’s Farewell Address & Charge (Joshua 23-24)
They were to choose whom they would __________. Joshua would ________ the Lord
Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua and the __________ who had survived him.
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