Acts 5:34
Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space;
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(34) A Pharisee, named Gamaliel.—We are brought into contact here with one of the heroes of Rabbinic history. The part he now played in the opening of the great drama, and not less his position as the instructor of St. Paul, demand attention. We have to think of him as the grandson of the great Hillel the representative of the best school of Pharisaism, the tolerant and large-hearted rival of the narrow and fanatic Shammai, whose precepts—such, e.g., as, Do nothing to another which thou wouldest not that he should do to thee—remind us of the Sermon on the Mount. The fame of Hillel won for him the highest honour of Judaism: the title of Rabban (the Rabboni of Mark 10:51; John 20:16), and the office of President of the Council. For the first time, there seemed likely to be a dynasty of scribes, and the office of chief of the Jewish schools, what we might almost call their Professorship of Theology, was transmitted through four generations. Hillel was succeeded by his son Simeon, whom some have identified with the Simeon of Luke 2:25 (see Note there), and he by Gamaliel. He, too, was known as the Rabban, and he rose now, with all the weight of years and authority, to counsel moderation. Various motives may have influenced him. He was old enough to remember the wisdom and grace of the child Jesus when, twenty-eight years before, He had sat in the midst of the doctors (Luke 2:46). He may have welcomed, during our Lord’s ministry, the teaching with so much of which Hillel would have sympathised, and been as the scribe who was not far from the kingdom of God (Mark 12:32-34), rejoicing in the new proof that had been brought forward of the doctrine of the Resurrection. As being himself of the house and lineage of David, he may have sympathised with the claims of One who was welcomed as the Son of David. One who was so prominent as a teacher could not fail to be acquainted with a brother-teacher like Nicodemus, and may well have been influenced by the example of his gradual conversion and the counsels of caution which he had given (John 7:50-51). The tone in which he speaks now might almost lead us to class him with the “many” of the chief rulers who secretly believed in Christ, but shrank from confessing Him (John 12:42-43). It seems probable that he, like Joseph of Arimathæa, had “not consented to the counsel and deed” of the Sanhedrin which Caiaphas had hastily convened for our Lord’s trial, and had contented himself with a policy of absence and expectation. If, as seems probable, Saul of Tarsus was at this time one of his disciples (Acts 22:3), the words of warning, though addressed generally to the Council, may well have been intended specially to restrain his fiery and impetuous zeal.

Commanded to put the apostles forth a little space.—The practice of thus deliberating in the absence of the accused seems to have been common. (Comp. Acts 4:15.) The report of the speech that follows may have come to St. Luke from some member of the Council, or, probably enough, from St. Paul himself. The occasional coincidences of language with the writings of that Apostle tend to confirm the antecedent likelihood of the conjecture.

Acts 5:34-37. Then stood up one in the council, a Pharisee — And as such believing the immortality of the soul and the resurrection; named Gamaliel — He is said to have been the son of good old Simeon, mentioned Luke 2:25; and the person at whose feet St. Paul was brought up. He was a man in so great esteem among the Jews, that Onkelos, the author of the Targum, is said to have burned seventy pounds weight of perfumes at his funeral; and the Jews have this saying concerning him: “From the time that Rabban Gamaliel, the old, died, the honour of the law failed, and purity and Pharisaism died.” A doctor — Or teacher; of the law — Who trained up a great number of pupils in the knowledge of it; had in reputation among all the people — Except the Sadducees. Thus can God raise up defenders of his servants whensoever and wheresoever he pleases. This man, rising up, commanded to put the apostles forth a little space — That he might speak the more freely, and be the more freely answered. And said, Ye men of Israel — To whom Divine Providence has committed the guardianship of this people, and the important care of their public affairs; take heed to yourselves — Now you are angry at these men; what ye intend to do — Lest you meddle to your own hurt. He puts them in mind of the importance of the matter in hand, which, in their heat, they were not capable of considering as they ought. For before these days rose up Theudas — He prudently mentions the facts first, and then draws the inference. A person of the name of Theudas is mentioned by Josephus, (Antiq., Acts 20:5,) under the character of a false prophet, who drew a great number of people after him, with a promise of dividing Jordan before them, but was defeated and beheaded, most of his followers being also slain or imprisoned. See notes on Matthew 24:5. But as this person appeared when Fadus was procurator of Judea, that is, according to Capellus, seven, or, according to Whitby, at least ten years after this was spoken, there can be no reference to him here. But Theudas being a very common name among the Jews, the person here mentioned, most probably, was one among the many leaders, who, as Josephus informs us, took up arms in defence of the public liberties, when the grand enrolment was made by Cyrenius, in the days of Archelaus. See note on Luke 2:17. This Theudas seems to have been supported by smaller numbers than the second of the name; and (as the second afterward did) perished in the attempt; but as his followers were dispersed, and not slaughtered like those of the second Theudas, survivers might talk much of him, and Gamaliel might have been particularly informed of his history, though Josephus only mentions it in general. After this man rose up Judas of Galilee — Of whom see note on Luke 13:1-2; in the days of the taxing — Or, as εν ταις ημεραις της απογραφης signifies, in the days of the taxation, or enrolment; meaning those same days, or at the same period of time, when the impostor Theudas appeared; and drew away much people after him — Endeavouring, on the principles of sacred liberty, to dissuade the Jews from owning the authority of the Romans in that instance; he also perished — Was quickly destroyed; and as many as obeyed him — As hearkened to, and followed him; were dispersed — And their cause came to nothing.

5:34-42 The Lord still has all hearts in his hands, and sometimes directs the prudence of the worldly wise, so as to restrain the persecutors. Common sense tells us to be cautious, while experience and observation show that the success of frauds in matters of religion has been very short. Reproach for Christ is true preferment, as it makes us conformable to his pattern, and serviceable to his interest. They rejoiced in it. If we suffer ill for doing well, provided we suffer it well, and as we should, we ought to rejoice in that grace which enabled us so to do. The apostles did not preach themselves, but Christ. This was the preaching that most offended the priests. But it ought to be the constant business of gospel ministers to preach Christ: Christ, and him crucified; Christ, and him glorified; nothing beside this, but what has reference to it. And whatever is our station or rank in life, we should seek to make Him known, and to glorify his name.Then stood there up one - He rose, as is usual in deliberative assemblies, to speak.

In the council - In the Sanhedrin, Acts 4:15.

A Pharisee - The high priest and those who had been most active in opposing the apostles were Sadducees. The Pharisees were opposed to them, particularly on the doctrine in regard to which the apostles were so strenuous, the resurrection of the dead. See the notes on Matthew 3:7. Compare Acts 23:6.

Gamaliel - This name was very common among the Jews. Dr. Lightfoot says that this man was the teacher of Paul Acts 22:3, the son of the "Simon" who took the Saviour in his arms Luke 2, and the grandson of the famous "Hillel," and was known among the Jews by the title of "Rabban Gamaliel the elder." There were other people of this name, who were also eminent among the Jews. This man is said to have died 18 years after the destruction of Jerusalem, and he died as he had lived, a Pharisee. There is not the least evidence that he was a friend of the Christian religion; but he was evidently a man of far more liberal views than the other members of the Sanhedrin.

A doctor of the law - That is, "a teacher" of the Jewish Law; one whose province it was to "interpret" the laws of Moses, and probably to preserve and transmit the "traditional" laws of the Jews. See the notes on Matthew 15:3. So celebrated was he, that Saul of Tarsus went to Jerusalem to receive the benefit of his instructions, Acts 22:3.

Had in reputation among all the people - "Honored" by all the people. His advice was likely, therefore, to be respected.

To put the apostles forth - This was done, doubtless, because, if the apostles had been suffered to remain, it was apprehended that they would take fresh courage, and be confirmed in their purposes. It was customary, besides, when they deliberated, to command those accused to retire, Acts 4:15.

A little space - A little "time," Luke 22:58.

34. Then stood up … Gamaliel—in all probability one of that name celebrated in the Jewish writings for his wisdom, the son of Simeon (possibly the same who took the infant Saviour in his arms, Lu 2:25-35), and grandson of Hillel, another celebrated rabbi. He died eighteen years before the destruction of Jerusalem [Lightfoot]. A Pharisee; this sect was accounted more mild than the Sadducees.

Named Gamaliel; it is thought that this man was the same at whose feet Paul sat, Acts 22:3: that he was the instructor to Barnabas and St. Stephen, with many other stories concerning him, are doubtful; howsoever, God made use of him, though as yet an enemy to his church and people, to plead for and protect them to his power. God can effect any thing without or against means, and suddenly to make such as were against him to be for him and his truth.

Commanded to put the apostles forth; that they might consult amongst themselves what to do with them: thus Acts 4:15.

Then stood there up one in the council,.... Or "in the sanhedrim", which the high priest had called together; this phrase is left out in the Syriac version: yet certain it is, that the great council was now assembled, and the disciples were now before them, and this man, who was one of the members of it, stood up in it; for it seems to have been the custom, that though they usually sat, yet when anyone had anything to say, or made a speech, he rose up from his seat.

A Pharisee named Gamaliel; he is described by his sect of religion, a Pharisee; of which; see Gill on Matthew 3:7 and by his name Gamaliel: he was the son of Rabban Simeon, the son of Hillell the great; which Simeon is, by some, thought to be the same that took Christ into his arms, Luke 2:25 and this Gamaliel was also the master of the Apostle Paul, Acts 22:3. This was a very ancient name in Israel; the prince of the children of Manasseh, that offered at the dedication of the tabernacle, was of this name, Numbers 7:54 and perhaps this man might be of the same tribe. He is further described by his profession,

a doctor of law; he was one of the Misnic doctors, one of the fathers of tradition, that received the oral law from those before him, and handed it down to others; and was the five and thirtieth of this sort, as the Jews say (t), from the giving of the law at Mount Sinai; or, as others (u), the thirty first:

had in reputation among all the people; and therefore his advice was the more likely to take place, without giving offence, or exposing to danger, seeing he was highly esteemed, not only in the sanhedrim, but among the common people; and that not only because he was a Pharisee, and a very strict one, the glory of that sect, insomuch that it is said (w), that

"when he died, the glory of the law ceased, and purity and pharisaism died;''

but because of his years, dignity, and place also; he is called commonly Gamaliel, "the elder", because he lived to a great age (x). He died eighteen years before the destruction of Jerusalem (y), and was had in veneration to the last. It is said of him (z), that

"he ordered, before his death, that they should carry him to his grave in linen; for before this time they used to carry out the dead in silk; and this was more grievous to his relations than his death itself;''

because they thought he was not interred honourably enough. And it is also reported, that Onkelos, the proselyte, at his death, burnt as much for him in goods and spices, as came to seventy Tyrian pounds (a). He was also commonly called by the name of Rabban, which was a more honourable title than that of Rabbi or Rab; and his father Simeon was the first that had it (b); and he was now president of the sanhedrim: and hence he used that authority which is expressed in the next words,

and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space; he ordered the apostles to be put out of the sanhedrim for a little while, that they might not hear what he had to say, and take encouragement from it; and that he might more freely speak his mind without giving them any countenance. The Alexandrian copy reads, "the men", instead of "the apostles"; and so the Vulgate Latin version.

(t) Ganz Tzemach David, par. 1. fol. 25. 2.((u) Juchasin, fol. 20. 1.((w) Misn. Sota, c. 9. sect. 15. (x) Juchasin, fol. 53. 1.((y) Ganz. ut supra. (Tzemach David, par. 1. fol. 25. 2.) (z) Ib. (a) T. Bab. Avoda Zara, fol. 11. 1.((b) Ganz. ib. Colossians 1.

{13} Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space;

(13) Christ finds defenders of his cause, even in the very company of his enemies, as often as he thinks necessary.

Acts 5:34. Gamaliel, גַּמְלִי אֵל, retributio Dei (Numbers 1:10; Numbers 2:20), is usually assumed to be identical with Rabban Gamaliel, הַזָּקֵיִ (senex), celebrated in the Talmud, the grandson of Hillel and the son of R. Simeon,—a view which cannot be proved, but also cannot be refuted, as there is nothing against it in a chronological point of view (Lightf. Hor. ad Matth. p. 33). He was the teacher of the Apostle Paul (Acts 22:3), but is certainly not in our passage to be considered as the president of the Sanhedrim, as many have assumed, because in that case Luke would have designated him more characteristically than by τις ἐν τ. συνεδρίῳ Φαρισ. That he had been in secret a Christian (see already Recogn. Clem. i. 65; Beda, Cornelius a Lapide), and been baptized, along with his son and Nicodemus, by Peter and John (Phot. cod. 171, p. 199), is a legend deduced by arbitrary inference from this passage. See Thilo, ad Cod. apocr. p. 501. An opposite but equally arbitrary extreme is the opinion of Pearson (Lectt. p. 49), that Gamaliel only declared himself in favour of the apostles from an inveterate partisan opposition to the Sadducees. Still more grossly, Schrader, II. p. 63, makes him a hypocrite, who sought to act merely for his own elevation and for the kingdom of darkness, and to win the unsuspicious Christians by his dissimulation. He was not a mere prudent waiter on events (Thiersch), but a wise, impartial, humane, and religiously scrupulous man, so strong in character that he could not and would not suppress the warnings and counsels that experience prompted him to oppose to the passionate zeal, backed in great part by Sadducean prejudice, of his colleagues (Acts 5:17); and therefore to be placed higher than an ordinary jurist and politician dispassionately contemplating the case (Ewald). Recently it has been maintained that the emergence of Gamaliel here recorded is an unhistorical rôle (Baur) assigned to him (see also Zeller); and the chief[172] ground alleged for this view is the mention of Theudas, Acts 5:36 (but see on Acts 5:36), while there is further assumed the set purpose of making Christianity a section of orthodox, or in other words Pharisaic Judaism, combated by Sadducaeism. As if, after the exaltation of Christ, His resurrection must not really have stood in the foreground of the apostles’ preaching! and by that very fact the position of parties could not but necessarily be so far changed, that now the main interests of Sadducaeism were most deeply affected.

νομοδιδάσκαλος] a νομικός, one skilled in the law (canonist) as a teacher. See on Matthew 22:35.

βραχύ] a short while, Thuc. vi. 12; Polyb. iii. 96. 2; 2 Samuel 19:36.

On ἔξω ποιεῖν] to put without. Comp. Xen. Cyr. iv. 1. 3; Symm. Psalm 142:7τ. ἀνθρώπους (see the critical remarks): thus did Gamaliel impartially designate them, and Luke reproduces his expression. The order of the words puts the emphasis on ἔξω; for the discussion was to be one conducted within the Sanhedrim. Comp. Acts 4:15.

[172] Moreover, Baur puts the alternative: Either the previous miracles, etc., actually took place, and then Gamaliel could not have given an advice so problematic in tenor, whether he might have regarded them as divine miracles or not. Or, if Gamaliel gave this counsel, then what is said to have taken place could not have occurred as it is related. But this dilemma proves nothing, as there is a third alternative possible, namely, that Gamaliel was by the miracles

Acts 5:34. ἀναστὰς, see Acts 5:17.—συνεδρίῳ: the word is used here and in Acts 5:27 above, without γερουσία, and this seems to indicate that in Acts 5:21 the Sanhedrim is meant, and no additional council.—Γαμαλιήλ: it has sometimes been urged that Saul, the persecutor, could not have been the pupil of such a man as is here described—a man who was so liberal in his religious opinions, and so adverse to political agitation. But whatever may have been the extent of his liberality, Gamaliel remained firmly attached to the traditions of the fathers, and whilst we may see in his recorded principle his abhorrence of wrangling and over-scrupulosity, we may also see in it a proof of his adherence to traditionalism: “Procure thyself a teacher, avoid being in doubt; and do not accustom thyself to give tithes by guess” (Edersheim, History of the Jewish Nation, p. 128). But in itself there is nothing strange in the fact that Saul should surpass the zeal of Gamaliel, for not only does history often show us how one side of the teaching of a master may be exaggerated to excess by a pupil, but also the specific charge against Stephen of destroying the Temple and of changing the customs of Moses had not been formulated against St. Peter and his brother-Apostles, who still attended the Temple worship, and whose piety gained them the regard of the people. That charge against the first martyr was nothing less than the charge brought against Jesus of Nazareth: the burning words and scathing denunciations of Stephen could only be answered, as those of Jesus had been answered, by the counter charge of blasphemy, and the punishment of death (see Sabatier’s L’Apôtre Paul, 21 ff.).

Gamaliel appears as an ordinary member, and there can be no reasonable doubt that the high priest was always the President during the Roman-Herodian period. Not until after the destruction of Jerusalem, when the priesthood had lost its importance, was a Rabbi chosen as President of a reconstituted Sanhedrim. For a summary of the views for and against the Rabbinic tradition that this Gamaliel was the President of the Sanhedrim, see Appendix iii., “The President of the Sanhedrim,” by the late Rev. H. A. White, in Dr. Edersheim’s History of the Jewish Nation, p. 522 ff. The influence of Gamaliel may easily be understood (1) when we remember that whilst the ἀρχιερεῖς belonged chiefly if not exclusively to the Sadducees, the Pharisees who also had seats in the Sanhedrim (cf. Acts 23:6, and Jos., B. J., ii., 17, 3, Vita, 38, 39, C. Apion, ii., 22) possessed practically a predominating influence in the Council. The remark of Jos., Ant., xviii., 1, 4, gives us, as Schürer says, “a deep insight into the actual position of matters,” Schürer, Jewish People, div. ii., vol. i., p. 178 ff., E.T., and O. Holtzmann Neutest. Zeitgeschichte, p. 175. (2) But we have also to take into account the personal influence of the man, which was no doubt at its height about the time described in Acts 5—he died A.D. 57–58. Not only was he the first teacher of the seven to whom the title Rabban was given (higher than that of Rab or Rabbi), but Jewish tradition respecting him shows the dignity and influence which attached to his name, Hamburger, Real-Encyclopädie des Judentums, ii., 2, 236, and see on the titles given to Gamaliel, Derenbourg, Histoire de la Palestine, pp. 239–246, and Schürer, u. s., p. 364. We may see a further proof of his influence in the fact that a certain proviso with regard to the determining leap year, which was passed in the Sanhedrim in his absence, was only to come into force if it received the confirmation of Gamaliel (Edajoth, vii., 7). So far then St. Luke’s account of the weight which would be carried by Gamaliel in the assembly is amply justified, and Schürer’s description of the constitution of the Sanhedrim, u. s., p. 174 ff., is sufficient reply to the strictures of Jüngst against Gamaliel’s appearance as a member of the Council, cf. Derenbourg, u. s., pp. 201, 213. On the words attributed to Gamaliel see below.—νομοδιδάσκαλος: only in St. Luke and St. Paul, cf. Luke 5:17, 1 Timothy 1:7, almost = γραμματεύς, νομικός, not found in LXX.—βραχύ (τι): = “a little while,” R.V., Luke 22:58, “a little space,” A.V.; ambiguous, in classical Greek the word might be used as either βραχύ, a short distance, Xen., Anab., iii., 3, 7, or ἐν βραχέϊ, “in a short time,” Herod., Acts 5:24, cf. Thuc., vi., 12. In Acts 27:28 the word may be taken either of space or time (see Blass). In the LXX it is used of space in 2 Samuel 16:1, and 2 Samuel 19:36, and most likely of degree in Psalm 8:6 (although the expression may be taken of time, cf. Hebrews 2:7; Hebrews 2:9, R.V.), and of time in Psalm 93:17, and in Isaiah 57:17 (Weiss, Westcott; but see Hatch and Redpath, doubtful). But whether we take the word of space or time in this passage, it is noteworthy that St. Luke alone of the N.T. writers can be said to use βραχύ temporally (in Hebrews it is a quotation), Friedrich, and so Klostermann, Vindiciœ Lucanœ, p. 54.—ἔξω ποιεῖν (hinausthun): only here in this sense, cf. Blass, in loco, for classical instances, and cf. Psalm 141:8 (Symmachus)—Weiss, Wendt.

34. Then stood there up one in the council] Better, But there stood up, &c. See note on Acts 5:25.

a Pharisee, named Gamaliel] It may very well be believed that some small sympathy towards the Christian teachers would be roused in the breast of a Pharisee, because they maintained, as he did, the doctrine of a resurrection, but there is nothing in the speech of this Pharisee beyond a policy of inactivity.

This Gamaliel, called here a doctor of the law, is no doubt the same person who is mentioned (Acts 22:3) as the teacher of St Paul. He is known in Jewish writings as Gamaliel ha-Zaken (i.e. the older), and was the grandson of Hillel. He was alive during the time when Herod was beautifying the Temple. For in Tosephta Shabbath xiv. (ed. Lemberg) we read, “Rabbi Jose said, It happened that Rabbi Khalaphta went to Rabban Gamaliel (the younger, and grandson of the Gamaliel in our text) to Tiberias, and found him sitting at the table of Rabbi Jochanan ben-Nozâph, and in his (Gamaliel’s) hand was the book of Job in Targum (i.e. in the Chaldee paraphrase), and he (Gamaliel) was reading in it. Rabbi Khalaphta said to him, I remember concerning Rabban Gamaliel the elder, the father of thy father, that he was sitting on a step in the Temple mount, and they brought before him the book of Job, in Targum, and he said to the builder, “Sink it (bury it) under this course of the wall.” This could only have been when the walls were in building.

Gamaliel is said to have died 18 years before the Temple was destroyed.

In T. B. Abodah Zarah 11 a, in allusion to the custom of burning beds, clothes, and other things, at the funerals of great men (see Jeremiah 34:5), it is said, “When Rabban Gamaliel the elder died, Onkelos the proselyte burned in his honour the worth of 70 minæ of Tyrian money.”

So great was Gamaliel’s fame that we read (Mishna Sotah ix. 15) when he died “the glory of the Torah ceased, and purity and sanctity died out also.” We can therefore understand that he was “had in reputation among all the people.”

and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space] Instead of the apostles, the best authorities have the men. He wished them to be removed for a short time from the council room, that the conversation of himself and his colleagues might be the more unrestrained.

Acts 5:34. Ἀναστὰς, having stood up) as being about to speak at some length.—ἐν τῷ συνεδρίῳ, in the council) GOD can raise up on every side defenders.—Φαρισαῖος, a Pharisee) And therefore believing the resurrection of the dead, which was denied by the Sadducees [who formed a large part of the counsellors present, Acts 5:17].—τίμιος, had in reputation) in high esteem.—παντὶ τῷ λαῷ, among all the people) although the rulers, the Sadducees, Acts 5:17, did not esteem him so much.—ἔξω, forth out of doors) So the anger of the rulers was softened.—βραχύ τι, a little space) A courteous speech.

Verse 34. - But there for there, A.V.; in honor of for in reputation among, A.V.; the men for the apostles, A.V. and T.R.; while for space, A.V. A Pharisee named Gamaliel. St. Luke had mentioned (Acts 4:1 and Acts 5:17) that there was an influential party of Sadducees in the Sanhedrim. He, therefore, now specially notes that Gamaliel was a Pharisee. There can be no doubt that this alone would rather dispose him to resist the violent counsels of the Sadducean members, and the more so as the doctrine of the Resurrection was in question (see Acts 23:6-8). Moreover, Gamaliel was noted for his moderation. That Gamaliel here named is the same as that of Acts 22:3, at whose feet St. Paul was brought up at Jerusalem, and who is known in the Talmud as Rabban Gamaliel the elder (to distinguish him from his grandson of the same name, the younger), the grandson of Hillel, the head of the school of Hillel, and at some time president of the Sanhedrim, one of the most famous of the Jewish doctors (as the title Rabban, borne by only six others, shows), seems certain, though it cannot absolutely be proved. The description of him as a doctor of the law, had in honor of all the people; the allusion to him as a great teacher, learned in the perfect manner of the Law of the fathers, and one whose greatness would be as a shield to his pupils, in Acts 22:3; the exact chronological agreement; the weight he possessed in the Sanhedrim, in spite of the Sadducean tendencies of the high priest and his followers; and the agreement between his character as written in the Talmud and as shown in his speech and in the counsel given in it, seem to place his identity beyond all reasonable doubt. There does not seem to be any foundation for the legend in the Clementine Recognitions, that he was in secret a Christian. If the prayer used in the synagogues, "Let there be no hope to them that apostatize from the true religion; and let heretics, how many soever they he, all perish as in a moment," be really his composition, as the Jews say, he certainly had no inclination to Christianity ('Prid. Conn.,' 1:361). Acts 5:34The apostles

The best texts substitute τοὺς ἀνθρώπους, the men.

A little space (βραχύ)

Better as Rev., a little while.

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