2 Kings 22:8
And Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD. And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(8) I have found.—Literally, the book of the Torah have I found. The definite form of the expression proves that what the high priest found was something already known; it was not a book, but the book of the Law. How little the critics are agreed as to the precise character and contents of the book in question is well shown by Thenius: “Neither the entire then existing Scripture (Sebastian Schmidt), nor the Pentateuch (Josephus, Clericus, Von Lengerke, Keil, Bähr,) nor the ordered collection of Mosaic laws contained in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers (Bertheau), nor the book of Exodus (Gramberg), nor the book of Deuteronomy (Reuss, Ewald, Hitzig) is to be understood by this expression. All these must have been brought into their present shape at a later time. What is meant is a collection of the statutes and ordinances of Moses, which has been worked up (verarbeitet) in the Pentateuch, and especially in Deuteronomy. This work is referred to by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 11:1-17),and was called “The Book of the Covenant” (2Kings 23:2). According to 2Chronicles 17:9 it already existed in the time of Jehoshaphat (comp. 2Kings 11:12, “the Testimony”); was probably preserved in the Ark (Deuteronomy 31:26), along with which in the reign of Manasseh it was put on one side. When after half a century of disuse it was found again by the high priest in going through the chambers of the Temple with a view to the intended repairs, in the Ark which, though cast aside, was still kept in the Temple, it appeared like something new, because it had been wholly forgotten (for a time), so that Shaphan could say: ‘Hilkiah has given me a book’ (2Kings 22:10).” (See also the Notes on 2Chronicles 34:14.)

And he read it.—Thenius thinks that this indicates that the book was of no great size, as Shaphan made his report to the king immediately after the execution of his commission (2Kings 22:9). But neither does 2Kings 22:9 say immediately, nor does this phrase necessarily mean that Shaphan read the book through.

2 Kings

THE REDISCOVERED LAW AND ITS EFFECTS

2 Kings 22:8 - 2 Kings 22:20
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We get but a glimpse into a wild time of revolution and counter-revolution in the brief notice that the ‘servants of Amon,’ Josiah’s father, conspired and murdered him in his palace, but were themselves killed by a popular rising, in which the ‘people of the land made Josiah his son king in his stead,’ and so no doubt balked the conspirators’ plans. Poor boy! he was only eight years old when he made his first acquaintance with rebellion and bloodshed. There must have been some wise heads and strong arms and loyal hearts round him, but their names have perished. The name of David was still a spell in Judah, and guarded his childish descendant’s royal rights. In the eighteenth year of his reign, the twenty-sixth of his age, he felt himself firm enough in the saddle to begin a work of religious reformation, and the first reward of his zeal was the finding of the book of the law. Josiah, like the rest of us, gained fuller knowledge of God’s will in the act of trying to do it so far as he knew it. ‘Light is sown for the upright.’

I. We have, first, the discovery of the law. The important and complicated critical questions raised by the narrative cannot be discussed here, nor do they affect the broad lines of teaching in the incident. Nothing is more truthful-like than the statement that, in course of the repairs of the Temple, the book should be found,-probably in the holiest place, to which the high priest would have exclusive access. How it came to have been lost is a more puzzling question; but if we recall that seventy-five years had passed since Hezekiah, and that these were almost entirely years of apostasy and of tumult, we shall not wonder that it was so. Unvalued things easily slip out of sight, and if the preservation of Scripture depended on the estimation which some of us have of it, it would have been lost long ago. But the fact of the loss suggests the wonder of the preservation. It would appear that this copy was the only one existing,-at all events, the only one known. It alone transmitted the law to later days, like some slender thread of water that finds its way through the sand and brings the river down to broad plains beyond. Think of the millions of copies now, and the one dusty, forgotten roll tossing unregarded in the dilapidated Temple, and be thankful for the Providence that has watched over the transmission. Let us take care, too, that the whole Scripture is not as much lost to us, though we have half a dozen Bibles each, as the roll was to Josiah and his men.

Hilkiah’s announcement to Shaphan has a ring of wonder and of awe in it. It sounds as if he had not known that such a book was anywhere in the Temple. And it is noteworthy that not he, but Shaphan, is said to have read it. Perhaps he could not,-though, if he did not, how did he know what the book was? At all events, he and Shaphan seem to have felt the importance of the find, and to have consulted what was to be done. Observe how the latter goes cautiously to work, and at first only says that he has received ‘a book.’ He gives it no name, but leaves it to tell its own story,-which it was then, and is still, well able to do. Scripture is its own best credentials and witnesses whence it comes. Again Shaphan is the reader, as it was natural that a ‘scribe’ should be, and again the possibility is that Josiah could not read.

II. One can easily picture the scene while the reader’s voice went steadily through the commandments, threatenings, and promises,-the deepening eagerness of the king, the gradual shaping out before his conscience of God’s ideal for him and his people, and the gradual waking of the sense of sin in him, like a dormant serpent beginning to stir in the first spring sunshine.

The effect of God’s law on the sinful heart is vividly pictured in Josiah’s emotion. ‘By the law is the knowledge of sin.’ To many of us that law, in spite of our outward knowledge of it, is as completely absent from our consciousness as it had been from the most ignorant of Josiah’s subjects; and if for once its searchlight were thrown into the hidden corners of our hearts and lives, it would show up in dreadful clearness the skulking foes that are stealing to assail us, and the foul things that have made good their lodgment in our hearts and lives. It always makes an epoch in a life when it is really brought to the standard of God’s law; and it is well for us if, like Josiah, we rend our clothes, or rather ‘our heart, and not our garments,’ and take home the conviction, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’

The dread of punishment sprang up in the young king’s heart, and though that emotion is not the highest motive for seeking the Lord, it is not an unworthy one, and is meant to lead on to nobler ones than itself. There is too much unwillingness, in many modern conceptions of Christ’s gospel, to recognise the place which the apprehension of personal evil consequences from sin has in the initial stages of the process by which we are ‘translated from the kingdom of darkness into that of God’s dear Son.’

III. The message to Huldah is remarkable. The persons sent with it show its importance. The high priest, the royal secretary, and one of the king’s personal attendants, who was, no doubt, in his confidence, and two other influential men, one of whom, Ahikam, is known as Jeremiah’s staunch friend, would make some stir in ‘the second quarter,’ on their way to the modest house of the keeper of the wardrobe. The weight and number of the deputation did honour to the prophetess, as well as showed the king’s anxiety as to the matter in hand. Jeremiah and Zephaniah were both living at this time, and we do not know why Huldah was preferred. Perhaps she was more accessible. But conjecture is idle. Enough that she was recognised as having, and declared herself to have, direct authoritative communications from God.

For what did Josiah need to inquire of the Lord ‘concerning the words of this book’? They were plain enough. Did he hope to have their sternness somewhat mollified by the words of a prophetess who might be more amenable to entreaties or personal considerations than the unalterable page was? Evidently he recognised Huldah as speaking with divine authority, and he might have known that two depositories of God’s voice could not contradict each other. But possibly his embassy simply reflected his extreme perturbation and alarm, and like many another man when God’s law startles him into consciousness of sin, he betook himself to one who was supposed to be in God’s counsels, half hoping for a mitigated sentence, and half uncertain of what he really wished. He confusedly groped for some support or guide. But, confused as he was, his message to the prophetess implied repentance, eager desire to know what to do, and humble docility. If dread of evil consequences leads us to such a temper, we shall hear, as Josiah did, answers of peace as authoritative and divine as were the threatenings that brought us to our senses and our knees.

IV. The answer which Josiah received falls into two parts, the former of which confirms the threatenings of evil to Jerusalem, while the latter casts a gleam athwart the thundercloud, and promises Josiah escape from the national calamities. Observe the difference in the designation given him in the two parts. When the threatenings are confirmed, his individuality is, as it were, sunk; for that part of the message applies to any and every member of the nation, and therefore he is simply called ‘the man that sent you.’ Any other man would have received the same answer. But when his own fate is to be disclosed, then he is ‘the king of Judah, who sent you,’ and is described by the official position which set him apart from his subjects.

Huldah has but to confirm the dread predictions of evil which the roll had contained. What else can a faithful messenger of God do than reiterate its threatenings? Vainly do men seek to induce the living prophet to soften down God’s own warnings. Foolishly do they think that the messenger or the messenger’s Sender has any ‘pleasure in the death of the wicked’; and as foolishly do they take the message to be unkind, for surely to warn that destruction waits the evildoer is gracious. The signal-man who waves the red flag to stop the train rushing to ruin is a friend. Huldah was serving Judah best by plain reiteration of the ‘words of the book.’

But the second half of her message told that in wrath God remembered mercy. And that is for ever true. His thunderbolts do not strike indiscriminately, even when they smite a nation. Judah’s corruption had gone too far for recovery, and the carcase called for the gathering together of the vultures, but Josiah’s penitence was not in vain. ‘I have heard thee’ is always said to the true penitent, and even if he is involved in widespread retribution, its strokes become different to him. Josiah was assured that the evil should not come in his days. But Huldah’s promise seems contradicted by the circumstances of his death. It was a strange kind of being gathered to his grave in peace when he fell on the fatal field of Megiddo, and ‘his servants carried him in a chariot dead, . . . and buried him in his own sepulchre’ {2 Kings 23:30}. But the promise is fulfilled in its real meaning by the fact that the threatenings which he was inquiring about did not fall on Judah in his time, and so far as these were concerned, he did come to his grave in peace.2 Kings 22:8. I have found the book of the law — This is generally agreed to have been the archetype written by Moses, and by him ordered to be deposited with the ark in the most holy place; but which some pious high- priest had caused to be thus hid in the reign of Ahaz or Manasseh, to prevent its being destroyed with the other copies of it; for it plainly appears, by the tenor of the history, that there were few, if any others, left. But it is much disputed, whether it was the whole Pentateuch, emphatically called ה תורה, he torah, the law, or only Deuteronomy, or even barely the 28th, 29th, 30th, and 31st chapters of that book. Josephus, by calling it the sacred books of Moses, seems to declare entirely for the former; as do far the greater number of Jews and Christians. If it be asked how Shaphan, reading to the king, could run over those five books so quickly as to come presently to the blessings and curses; it may be answered, that as their manner was to write upon volumes of a considerable length, which were rolled up round one or two sticks, it might so happen, that these last chapters proved to be on the outside, and that the king, impatient to know the contents of it, might desire to have them read before he had unfolded a round or two. Or we may suppose, with the Jews, that Providence directed him to that very part. Something like this we find happened under the gospel, Luke 4:17; Acts 18:28, &c. What appears most surprising is, that all the copies of the Scriptures, which the good King Hezekiah seems to have caused to be written and dispersed about the kingdom, (see Proverbs 25:1,) should be so soon vanished, that neither Josiah nor the high-priest had ever seen any of them till this one was brought to light. All that can be said in this case is, that Manasseh, during the former part of his reign, had made such a havoc of them, that if there were any left, they were only in a few private hands, who preserved them with the utmost caution and secrecy. See Dodd. and Univ. Hist. What a providence was this, that this book of the law was still preserved! And what a providence it is that the whole book of God is preserved to us! If the Holy Scriptures had not been of God, they would not have been in being at this day. God’s care of the Bible is a plain proof of his interest in it. We may observe further here, it was a great instance of God’s favour, and a token for good to Josiah and his people, that the book of the law was thus seasonably brought to light, to direct and quicken that blessed reformation which Josiah had begun. It is a sign God has mercy in store for a people, when he magnifies his law among them, and makes that honourable, and furnishes them with the means of increasing in Scripture knowledge. The translating of the Scriptures into the vulgar tongues was the glory, strength, and joy of the reformation from popery. And now, (in the year 1811,) the plans laid, and, in a great degree, carried into execution, by the British and Foreign Bible Society, to translate the Scriptures into the vernacular language of every nation upon earth, and to give them to every kindred, and tongue, and people, is at once the honour and the happiness of the present age, and will form one of the most glorious eras of the British empire. It is worthy of observation also, that Josiah and his people were engaged in a good work, namely, repairing the temple, when they found the book of the law. They that do their duty according to their knowledge, shall have their knowledge increased. To him that hath shall be given. The book of the law was an abundant recompense for all their care and cost in repairing the temple.22:1-10 The different event of Josiah's early succession from that of Manasseh, must be ascribed to the distinguishing grace of God; yet probably the persons that trained him up were instruments in producing this difference. His character was most excellent. Had the people joined in the reformation as heartily as he persevered in it, blessed effects would have followed. But they were wicked, and had become fools in idolatry. We do not obtain full knowledge of the state of Judah from the historical records, unless we refer to the writings of the prophets who lived at the time. In repairing the temple, the book of the law was found, and brought to the king. It seems, this book of the law was lost and missing; carelessly mislaid and neglected, as some throw their Bibles into corners, or maliciously concealed by some of the idolaters. God's care of the Bible plainly shows his interest in it. Whether this was the only copy in being or not, the things contained in it were new, both to the king and to the high priest. No summaries, extracts, or collections out of the Bible, can convey and preserve the knowledge of God and his will, like the Bible itself. It was no marvel that the people were so corrupt, when the book of the law was so scarce; they that corrupted them, no doubt, used arts to get that book out of their hands. The abundance of Bibles we possess aggravates our national sins; for what greater contempt of God can we show, than to refuse to read his word when put into our hands, or, reading it, not to believe and obey it? By the holy law is the knowledge of sin, and by the blessed gospel is the knowledge of salvation. When the former is understood in its strictness and excellence, the sinner begins to inquire, What must I do to be saved? And the ministers of the gospel point out to him Jesus Christ, as the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.Some have concluded from this discovery, either that no "book of the law" had ever existed before, the work now said to have been "found" having been forged for the occasion by Hilkiah; or that all knowledge of the old "book" had been lost, and that a work of unknown date and authorship having been at this time found was accepted as the Law of Moses on account of its contents, and has thus come down to us under his name. But this is to see in the narrative far more than it naturally implies. If Hilkiah had been bold enough and wicked enough to forge, or if he had been foolish enough to accept hastily as the real "book of the law" a composition of which he really knew nothing, there were four means of detecting his error or his fraud:

(1) The Jewish Liturgies, which embodied large portions of the Law;

(2) The memory of living men, which in many instances may have extended to the entire five books, as it does now with the modern Samaritans;

(3) Other copies, entire or fragmentary, existing among the more learned Jews, or in the Schools of the prophets; and

(4) Quotations from the Law in other works, especially in the Psalmists and prophets, who refer to it on almost every page.

The copy of the Book of the Law found by Hilkiah was no doubt that deposited, in accordance with the command of God, by Moses, by the side of the ark of the covenant, and kept ordinarily in the holy of holies (marginal reference). It had been lost, or secreted, during the desecration of the temple by Manasseh, but had not been removed out of the temple building.

2Ki 22:8-15. Hilkiah Finds the Book of the Law.

8-11. Hilkiah said … I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord, &c.—that is, the law of Moses, the Pentateuch. It was the temple copy which, had been laid (De 31:25, 26) beside the ark in the most holy place. During the ungodly reigns of Manasseh and Amon—or perhaps under Ahaz, when the temple itself had been profaned by idols, and the ark also (2Ch 35:3) removed from its site; it was somehow lost, and was now found again during the repair of the temple [Keil]. Delivered by Hilkiah the discoverer to Shaphan the scribe [2Ki 22:8], it was by the latter shown and read to the king. It is thought, with great probability, that the passage read to the king, and by which the royal mind was so greatly excited, was a portion of Deuteronomy, the twenty-eighth, twenty-ninth, and thirtieth chapters, in which is recorded a renewal of the national covenant, and an enumeration of the terrible threats and curses denounced against all who violated the law, whether prince or people. The impressions of grief and terror which the reading produced on the mind of Josiah have seemed to many unaccountable. But, as it is certain from the extensive and familiar knowledge displayed by the prophets, that there were numbers of other copies in popular circulation, the king must have known its sacred contents in some degree. But he might have been a stranger to the passage read him, or the reading of it might, in the peculiar circumstances, have found a way to his heart in a manner that he never felt before. His strong faith in the divine word, and his painful consciousness that the woeful and long-continued apostasies of the nation had exposed them to the infliction of the judgments denounced, must have come with overwhelming force on the heart of so pious a prince.

The book of the law; that original

book of the law of the Lord, given or written by the hand of Moses, as it is expressed, 2 Chronicles 34:14, which by God’s command was put beside the ark, Deu 31:26, and probably taken from thence and hid, by the care of some godly priest, when some of the idolatrous kings of Judah persecuted the true religion, and defaced the temple, and (which the Jewish writers affirm) burnt all the copies of God’s law which they could find, and now found among the rubbish, or in some secret place. And Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe,.... Not at the first time of his message to him, but afterwards that he attended on him upon the same business; after the high priest had examined the temple to know what repairs it wanted, and where:

I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord; some think this was only the book of Deuteronomy, and some only some part of that; rather the whole Pentateuch, and that not a copy of it, but the very autograph of Moses, written with his own hand, as it seems from 2 Chronicles 34:14. Some say he found it in the holy of holies, on the side of the ark; there it was put originally; but, indeed, had it been there, he might have found it before, and must have seen it, since, as high priest, he entered there once every year; more probably some pious predecessor of his had taken it from thence in a time of general corruption, as in the reign of Manasseh, and hid it in some private place, under a lay of stones, as Jarchi, in some hole in the wall, which upon search about repairs was found there:

and Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it; and though there might be some copies of it in private hands, yet scarce; and perhaps Shaphan had never seen one, at least a perfect one, or however had never read it through, as now he did.

And Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe, I have found the {e} book of the law in the house of the LORD. And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it.

(e) This was the copy that Moses left them, as it appears in 2Ch 34:14, which either by the negligence of the priests had been lost, or else by the wickedness of idolatrous kings had been abolished.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
8–20. Hilkiah the high priest finds the book of the Law. Effect of the discovery on Josiah. The words of Huldah the prophetess (2 Chronicles 34:14-28)

8. I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord] Much discussion has arisen about the discovery which this verse records. Before entering on the question of what it was which Hilkiah found, it may be well to notice briefly the circumstances of the time. Josiah had succeeded his father at the age of eight, and in the previous fifty-seven years the kingdom had twice over been deluged with all the abominations of idolatry. The greater proportion therefore of the inhabitants of Jerusalem would have had little chance of knowing the law and its requirements. The temple had been neglected, perhaps closed, during a large part of these years. If we may judge of what would be needed now by what had been found necessary in Hezekiah’s time (2 Chronicles 29:5-7) the holy place would have become foul with neglect, the doors shut up, the lamps unlit, no incense within, no sacrifices without the building. As for the book of the Law, whatever might have been its contents at this time, rolls containing it would certainly not be numerous. In the possession of the priests they might be expected to be found, but only here and there. The copy made (according to the Law) for the use of the king would most certainly have perished. We must lay aside, in thinking of this time, all our modern conceptions about books and about a number of copies. The priests, in the matter of services and sacrifices in the temple, taught the people by word of mouth what was proper in every part of the ceremonial, and much of the priestly training was traditional, passed on from one generation of priests to another. That an authoritative copy of the Law, whatever it may have comprised, would be supplied for preservation in the temple we certainly might expect, but after nearly sixty years of neglect of the temple and its services we can feel little surprise that neither Hilkiah nor his fellows were aware of its existence, and that Josiah knew concerning it only what had been taught him by the priests. The half-century previous to Josiah’s accession had been a period of utter darkness both for people, priests and king.

Hilkiah gave [R.V. delivered] the book to Shaphan] The same verb is rendered ‘deliver’ in verses 9 and 10 just following. The scribe Shaphan was the person to whom such a discovered roll would naturally be brought. Neither Hilkiah nor Shaphan are surprised at what has been found. The high priest describes it to Shaphan by a form of words which must have had a definite meaning before he used them. That is, there was known among the priests, and to some degree no doubt among the people, a collection of precepts which were called by the name of ‘the book of the Law’. Therefore the finding mentioned in this verse was not a discovery of something unknown before, but the rescuing of the temple-copy of the Law from the hiding-place in which it had long lain (perhaps in one of the chambers round about the temple). Hilkiah knows what it is which he has come upon, the scribe with professional instinct begins to peruse it. Neither of them shews any ignorance or any surprise at the sight or perusal.Verses 8-14. - Discovery of the book of the Law. When Shaphan had transacted with Hilkiah the business entrusted to him by the king, Hilkiah took the opportunity of sending word by him to the king with respect to a discovery that he had recently made, during the investigations connected with the repairs. He had found a book, which he called without any doubt or hesitation, "the book of the Law" - סֵפֶר הַתּורָה - and this book he put into the hands of Shaphan, who "read it," i.e. some of it, and found it of such importance that he took it back with him to the palace, and read a portion to the king. Hereupon the king "rent his clothes," and required that special inquiry should be made of the Lord concerning the words of the book, and particularly concerning the threatenings contained in it. The persons entrusted with this task thought it best to lay the matter before Huldah, a prophetess, who lived in Jerusalem at the time, and pro-seeded to confer with her at her residence. Verse 8. - And Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the Law in the house of the Lord. There has been great difference of opinion as to what it was which Hilkiah had found. Ewald believes it to have been the Book of Deuteronomy, which had, he thinks, been composed some thirty or forty years before in Egypt by a Jewish exile, and had found its way, by a sort of chance, into Palestine, where "some priest" had placed a copy of it in the temple ('History of Israel,' vol. 4. pp. 233-235). Thenius suggests "a collection of the laws and ordinances of Moses, which was afterwards worked up into the Pentateuch;" Bertheau, "the three middle books of the Pentateuch, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers;" Gramberg, "Exodus by itself." But there seem to be no sufficient grounds for questioning the ancient opinion - that of Josephus, and of the Jews generally - that it was a copy of the entire Pentateuch. (So De Wette, 'Einleitung in das Alt. Test.,' § 162 a; Keil, 'Commentary on Kings,' pp. 477, 478; Bahr, 'Commentary,' vol. 6. p. 257; and others). The words, סֵפֶר הַתּורָה, "the book of the Law," are really sufficient to decide the point; since, as Keil says, they "cannot mean anything else, either grammatically or historically, than the Mosaic book of the Law (the Pentateuch), which is so designated, as is generally admitted, in the Chronicles and the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah." The same conclusion follows from the expression, "the book of the covenant" (סֵפֶר הַּבְןןרִית), in 2 Kings 23:2, and also from 2 Kings 23:24, 25, and 2 Chronicles 34:14. Whether or no the copy was the actual original deposited in the ark of the covenant by Moses (Deuteronomy 31:26), as Keil believes, is doubtful. As Egyptian manuscripts which are from three to four thousand years old still exist in good condition, there can be no reason why a manuscript of Moses' time should not have been found and have been legible in Josiah's. But, if not the actual handwriting of Moses, it was probably its lineal descendant - the copy made for the temple service, and kept ordinarily "in the side of the ark" - which may well have been lost in the time of Manasseh or Amen, and which was now happily "found." And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it. We need not suppose that Shaphan read the whole. But he read enough to show him how important the work was, and how necessary it was to make it known to the king. Length and spirit of Josiah's reign. - Josiah (for the name, see at 1 Kings 13:2), like Hezekiah, trode once more in the footsteps of his pious forefather David, adhering with the greatest constancy to the law of the Lord. He reigned thirty-one years. As a child he had probably received a pious training from his mother; and when he had ascended the throne, after the early death of his godless father, he was under the guidance of pious men who were faithfully devoted to the law of the Lord, and who turned his heart to the God of their fathers, as was the case with Joash in 2 Kings 12:3, although there is no allusion to guardianship. His mother Jedidah, the daughter of Adaiah, was of Boscath, a city in the plain of Judah, of which nothing further is known (see at Joshua 15:39). The description of his character, "he turned not aside to the right hand and to the left," sc. from that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, is based upon Deuteronomy 5:29; Deuteronomy 17:11, Deuteronomy 17:20, and Deuteronomy 28:14, and expresses an unwavering adherence to the law of the Lord.
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