Daniel 7:4
The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand on the feet as a man, and a man's heart was given to it.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) The first was like a lion.—The lion and the eagle are chosen as being emblems of strength and swiftness respectively. They characterise the empire of Nebuchadnezzar, and correspond to the golden head of the Colossus (Daniel 2).

The wings . . . plucked.—The eagle, deprived of its wings, loses its power of swiftness and unrestrained motion.

From the earth.—The beast was raised from being on its four feet into the position of a man, as is indicated by the words “a man’s heart.” We have not sufficient historical details respecting the last years of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign to enable us to point to the reference. It has been suggested by St. Jerome that the words refer to the madness of the king and to his subsequent recovery; but it must be borne in mind that it is the kingdom rather than the king of Babylon which is the subject of the vision.

Daniel 7:4. The first was like a lion — The Chaldean or Babylonian empire: compared to the head of gold, the chief of metals, in the image represented to Nebuchadnezzar in his dream, Daniel 2:32; Daniel 2:37-38, is here represented as a lion, the king of beasts. Instead of a lion, the Vulgate, Greek, and Arabic read, a lioness, signifying, says Jerome, the cruelty of that empire, lionesses, according to naturalists, being fiercer than lions. It is represented as having eagles’ wings, to denote the extent and rapidity of its conquests, that empire being advanced to its height within a few years, by the conduct and arms of one single person, namely, Nebuchadnezzar. I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked — Or, torn out, as מריתוmay be rendered: that is, it was checked in its progress by frequent defeats, and rendered unable to make further conquests. Its wings were beginning to be plucked at the time of the delivery of this prophecy; for at this lime the Medes and Persians were encroaching upon it. Belshazzar, the king now reigning, was the last of his race; and in the seventeenth year of his reign Babylon was taken, and the kingdom transferred to the Medes and Persians. And it was lifted up from the earth — Removed from its foundation, and lost its stability: or, as some render the clause, the wings thereof were plucked, wherewith it had been lifted up from the earth, that is, had been enabled to fly swiftly, in extending its conquests; and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man’s heart was given to it — When it was thus curtailed and humbled, it became more peaceable and humane, agreeably to the idea of the psalmist, Psalm 9:20, Put them in fear, O Lord, that the nations may know themselves to be but men. The minds of the people were humbled by their misfortunes, and by the calamities coming more and more upon the empire; and they who vaunted as if they had been gods, now felt themselves to be but men.7:1-8 This vision contains the same prophetic representations with Nebuchadnezzar's dream. The great sea agitated by the winds, represented the earth and the dwellers on it troubled by ambitious princes and conquerors. The four beasts signified the same four empires, as the four parts of Nebuchadnezzar's image. Mighty conquerors are but instruments of God's vengeance on a guilty world. The savage beast represents the hateful features of their characters. But the dominion given to each has a limit; their wrath shall be made to praise the Lord, and the remainder of it he will restrain.The first was like a lion - It is to be assumed, in explaining and applying these symbols, that they are significant - that is, that there was some adaptedness or propriety in using these symbols to denote the kingdoms referred to; or that in each case there was a reason why the particular animal was selected for a symbol rather than one of the others; that is, there was something in the lion that was better fitted to symbolize the kingdom referred to than there was in the bear or the leopard, and this was the reason why this particular symbol was chosen in the case. It is to be further assumed that all the characteristics in the symbol were significant, and we are to expect to find them all in the kingdom which they were designed to represent; nor can the symbol be fairly applied to any kingdom, unless something shall be found in its character or history that shall correspond alike to the particular circumstances referred to in the symbol, and to the grouping or succession. In regard to the first beast, there were five things that entered into the symbol, all of which it is to be presumed were significant: the lion, the eagle's wings - the fact that the wings were plucked - the fact that the beast was lifted up so as to stand up as a man - and the fact that the heart of a man was given to it. It is proper to consider these in their order, and then to inquire whether they found a fulfillment in any known state of things.

(a) The animal that was seen: "the lion." The lion, "the king of beasts," is the symbol of strength and courage, and becomes the proper emblem of a king - as when the Mussulmans call Ali, Mahomet's son-in-law, "The Lion of God, always victorious." Thus it is often used in the Scriptures. Genesis 49:9, "Judah is a lion's whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up?" The warlike character, the conquest, the supremacy of that tribe are here undoubtedly denoted. So in Ezekiel 19:2-3. "What is thy mother? A lioness: she lay down among lions, she nourished her whelps among young lions." Here is an allusion, says Grotius, to Genesis 49:9. Judea was among the nations like a lioness among the beasts of the forest; she had strength and sovereignty. The lion is an emblem of a hero: 2 Samuel 23:20, "He slew two lion-like men of Moab." Compare Gesenius zu Isa. i. 851. So Hercules and Achilles are called by Homer θυμολέοντα thumoleonta, or λεοντόθυμον leontothumon - lion-hearted - Iliad e 639, ee 228, Odyssey l 766. See the character, the intrepidity, and the habits of the lion fully illustrated in Bochart, Hieroz. lib. iii. c. 2, pp. 723-745 - Credner, der prophet Joel, s. 100. f. Compare also the following places in Scripture: Psalm 7:2; Psalm 22:21; Psalm 57:4; Psalm 58:6; Psalm 74:4; 1 Samuel 17:37; Job 4:10; Jeremiah 4:7; Jeremiah 49:19; Joel 1:6; Isaiah 29:1-2. The proper notion here, so far as the emblem of a lion is concerned, is that of a king or kingdom that would be distinguished for power, conquest, dominion; that would be in relation to other kings and kingdoms as the lion is among the beasts of the forest - keeping them in awe, and maintaining dominion over them - marching where he pleases, with none to cope with him or to resist him.

(b) The eagle's wings: "and had eagle's wings." Here appears one peculiarity of the emblem - the union of things which are not found joined together in nature - the representation of things or qualities which no one animal would represent. The lion would denote one thing, or one quality in the kingdom referred to - power, dominion, sovereignty - but there would be some characteristic in that king or kingdom which nothing in the lion would properly represent, and which could be symbolized only by attaching to him qualities to be found in some other animal. The lion, distinguished for his power, his dominion, his keeping other animals in awe - his spring, and the severity of his blow - is not remarkable for his speed, nor for going forth to conquest. He does not range far to accomplish his purpose, nor are his movements eminent for fleetness. Hence, there were attached to the lion the wings of an eagle. The proper notion, therefore, of this symbol, would be that of a dominion or conquest rapidly secured, as if a lion, the king of beasts, should move, not as he commonly does, with a spring or bound, confining himself to a certain space or range, but should move as the eagle does, with rapid and prolonged flight, extending his conquests afar. The meaning of the symbol may be seen by comparing this passage with Isaiah 46:11, where Cyrus is compared to "a ravenous bird" - "calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsels from a far country." The eagle is an emblem of swiftness: Jeremiah 4:13, "His horses are swifter than eagles;" Jeremiah 48:40, "Behold, he shall fly as an eagle, and shall spread his wings over Moab." See also Jeremiah 49:22; Lamentations 4:19; Habakkuk 1:8.

(c) The clipping of the wings: "I beheld until the wings thereof were plucked" The word used (מרט meraṭ) means, to pluck or pull, as to pull out the beard (compare Nehemiah 13:25; Isaiah 50:6), and would here be properly applied to some process of pulling out the feathers or quills from the wings of the eagle. The obvious and proper meaning of this symbol is, that there was some check put to the progress of the conqueror - as there would be to an eagle by plucking off the feathers from his wings; that is, the rapidity of his conquests would cease. The prophet says, that he looked on until this was done, implying that it was not accomplished at once, but leaving the impression that these conquests were extended far. They were, however, checked, and we see the lion again without the wings; the sovereign who has ceased to spread his triumphs over the earth.

(d) The lifting up from the earth: "and it was lifted up from the earth, and made to stand upon the feet as a man." That is, the lion, with the wings thus plucked off, was made to stand upright on his hind feet - an unusual position, but the meaning of the symbol is not difficult. It was still the lion - the monarch - but changed as if the lion was changed to a man; that is, as if the ferocity, and the power, and the energy of the lion had given place to the comparative weakness of a man. There would be as much difference in the case referred to as there would be if a lion so fierce and powerful should be made so far to change his nature as to stand upright, and to walk as a man. This would evidently denote some remarkable change - something that would be unusual - something where there would be a diminution of ferocity, and yet perhaps a change to comparative weakness - as a man is feebler than a lion.

(e) The giving to it of a man's heart: "and a man heart was given to it." The word heart in the Scriptures often has a closer relation to the intellect or the understanding than it new has commonly with us; and here perhaps it is a general term to denote something like human nature - that is, there would be as great a change in the case as if the nature of the lion should be transformed to that of a man; or, the meaning may be, that this mighty empire, carrying its arms with the rapidity of an eagle, and the fierceness of a lion, through the world, would be checked in its career; its ferocity would be tamed, and it would be characterized by comparative moderation and humanity. In Daniel 4:16, it is said of Nebuchadnezzar, "Let his heart be changed from man's, and let a beast's heart be given unto him;" here, if the symbol refers to him, it does not refer to that scene of humiliation when he was compelled to eat grass like a beast, but to the fact that he was brought to look at things as a man should do; he ceased to act like a ravenous beast, and was led to calm reflection, and to think and speak like a man - a rational being. Or, if it refers to the empire of Babylon, instead of the monarch, it would mean that a change had come over the nation under the succession of princes, so that the fierceness and ferocity of the first princes of the empire had ceased, and the nation had not only closed its conquests, but had actually become, to some extent, moderate and rational.

Now, in regard to the application of this symbol, there can be but little difficulty, and there is almost no difference of opinion among expositors. All, or nearly all, agree that it refers to the kingdom of Babylon, of which Nebuchadnezzar was the head, and to the gradual diminution of the ferocity of conquest under a succession of comparatively weak princes. Whatever view may be taken of the book of Daniel whether it be regarded as inspired prophecy composed by Daniel himself, and written at the time when it professes to have been, or whether it be supposed to have been written long after his time by some one who forged it in his name, there can be no doubt that it relates to the head of the Babylonian empire, or to that which the "head of gold," in the image referred to in Daniel 2, represents. The circumstances all so well agree with that application, that, although in the explication of the dream Daniel 7:16-27 this part of it is not explained - for the perplexity of Daniel related particularly to the fourth beast Daniel 7:19, yet there can be no reasonable doubt as to what was intended. For

(a) the lion - the king of beasts - would accurately symbolize that kingdom in the days of Nebuchadnezzar - a kingdom occupying the same position among other kingdoms which the lion does among other beasts, and well represented in its power and ferocity by the lion. See the character and position of this kingdom fully illustrated in the notes at Daniel 2:37-38.

(b) The eagle's wings would accurately denote the rapid conquests of that kingdom - its leaving, as it were, its own native domain, and flying abroad. The lion alone would have represented the character of the kingdom considered as already having spread itself, or as being at the head of other kingdoms; the wings of the eagle, the rapidity with which the arms of the Babylonians were carried into Palestine, Egypt, Assyria, etc. It is true that this symbol alone would not designate Babylon anymore than it would the conquests of Cyrus, or Alexander, or Caesar, but it is to be taken in the connection in which it is here found, and no one can doubt that it has a striking applicability to Babylon.

(c) The clipping or plucking of these wings would denote the cessation of conquest - as if it would extend no farther; that is, we see a nation once distinguished for the invasion of other nations now ceasing its conquests; and remarkable, not for its victories, but as standing at the head of all other nations, as the lion stands among the beasts of the forest. All who are acquainted with history know that, after the conquests of that kingdom under Nebuchadnezzar, it ceased characteristically to be a kingdom distinguished for conquest, but that, though under his successors, it held a pre-eminence or headship among the nations, yet its victories were extended no further. The successors of Nebuchadnezzar were comparatively weak and indolent princes - as if the wings of the monster had been plucked.

(d) The rising up of the lion on the feet, and standing on the feet as a man, would denote, not inappropriately, the change of the kingdom under the successors of Nebuchadnezzar. See above in the explanation of the symbol.

(e) The giving of a man's heart to it would not be inapplicable to the change produced in the empire after the time of Nebuchadnezzar, and under a succession of comparatively weak and inefficient princes. Instead of the heart of the lion - of being "lion-hearted" - it had the heart of a man; that is, the character of wildness and fierceness denoted by an untamed beast was succeeded by what would be better represented by a human being. It is not the character of the lion changed to that of the bear, or the panther, or the leopard; nor is it man considered as a warrior or conqueror, but man as he is distinguished from the wild and ferocious beast of the desert. The change in the character of the empire, until it ceased under the feeble reign of Belshazzar; would be well denoted by this symbol.

4. lion—the symbol of strength and courage; chief among the kingdoms, as the lion among the beasts. Nebuchadnezzar is called "the lion" (Jer 4:7).

eagle's wings—denoting a widespread and rapidly acquired (Isa 46:11; Jer 4:13; La 4:19; Hab 1:6) empire (Jer 48:40).

plucked—Its ability for widespread conquests passed away under Evil-merodach, &c. [Grotius]; rather, during Nebuchadnezzar's privation of his throne, while deranged.

it was lifted up from the earth—that is, from its grovelling bestiality.

made stand … as a man—So long as Nebuchadnezzar, in haughty pride, relied on his own strength, he forfeited the true dignity of man, and was therefore degraded to be with the beasts. Da 4:16: "Let his heart be changed from man's, and let a beast's heart be given unto him." But after he learned by this sore discipline that "the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men" (Da 4:35, 36), the change took place in him, "a man's heart is given to him; instead of his former beast's heart, he attains man's true position, namely, to be consciously dependent on God." Compare Ps 9:20.

Lion, and eagle; one the king of beasts, the other the king of birds, for which he is called the golden head, as Daniel 2:32,38. This was the Chaldean or Assyrian; whose seat was first at Babylon, after at Nineveh, and then at Babylon again.

Had eagle’s wings; they were swift, overrunning many countries, and brought their monarchy to a prodigious height in a short time. Thus Jeremiah prophesied, Daniel 4:13,

He shall come up as clouds, his chariots shall be as a whirlwind, his horses are swifter than eagles; in the 7th verse called a

lion, and here like

clouds, whirlwinds, and eagles for swiftness, Jeremiah 48:40 Ezekiel 17:3.

The wings thereof were plucked; which was first in stopping the career of their victories, and after in casting them out of their kingdom, the nation was not destroyed, but their monarchy.

A man’s heart was given unto it: this was truly verified in Nebuchadnezzar, after he was as a beast turned out amongst beasts, Daniel 4:31-34; and finished upon his son Belshazzar for not taking warning, Daniel 5:22. The first was like a lion,.... That which rose up first, the kingdom of the Babylonians, as the Syriac version expresses it; or the Assyrian monarchy, founded by Nimrod, increased by the Assyrians, and brought to its height under Nebuchadnezzar by the Babylonians and Chaldeans; this is said to be like a "lion" for its strength and power, for its greatness, dignity, and majesty; the same with the head of gold in Nebuchadnezzar's dream; see Jeremiah 4:7,

and had eagles' wings; denoting the celerity and swiftness with which Nebuchadnezzar ran, or rather flew, over several kingdoms and countries, and added them to his empire; see Jeremiah 4:13,

and I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked; it was retarded and stopped in its conquests; it could fly no further, nor make any new acquisitions; yea, it was deplumed and stripped of some of its dominions, the Medes and Persians falling off, and making war with it:

and it was lifted up from the earth; or, "with which it was lifted up from, the earth" (a); with which wings it raised itself up, and lifted itself above other kingdoms and nations; but now were plucked, and could not soar aloft as formerly; its glory and majesty, power and strength, were lessened, whole provinces revolting, as in the times of Evilmerodach, Neriglissar, and Belshazzar:

and made stand upon the feet as a man; it did not fly like an eagle as before, and overrun countries, and waste them; or go upon all four, as a beast; but stood on its feet, its two hinder legs, like a man; signifying that it abated, in the reigns of the above princes, of its strength and fierceness, and became more mild and tractable, and was reduced within bounds like other kingdoms:

and a man's heart was given to it; instead of a lion like heart, that was bold and intrepid, and feared nothing, it became weak and fearful, and timorous like the heart of man, especially in Belshazzar's time; not only when he saw the handwriting on the wall, to which Jacchiades refers this; but when he was so fearful of Cyrus that he shut himself up in Babylon, and durst not stir out to give him battle, as Xenophon (b) relates; and when the city was taken, the Babylonians were obliged to deliver up their arms, employ themselves in tilling their fields, and to pay tribute to the Persians, and always salute them as their lords and masters, as the same historian (c) says; see Jeremiah 51:30.

(a) "quibus efferebatur e terra", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "per quas efferebatur supra terram", Grotius. (b) Cyropaedia, l. 5. c. 10. (c) Cyropaedia, l. 7. c. 24.

The first was like a {c} lion, and had eagle's wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man's heart was given to it.

(c) Meaning the Assyrian and Chaldean empire, which was most strong and fierce in power, and most soon to come to their authority, as though they had wings to fly: yet their wings were pulled off by the Persians, and they went on their feet, and were made like other men, which is meant here by man's heart.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4. The first beast.

eagle’s wings] The ‘eagle’ (nesher) of the O.T., as Tristram has shewn (Nat. Hist. of the Bible, p. 172 ff.), is properly a vulture,—though not the ordinary carrion vulture, but the Griffon-Vulture, or Great Vulture, a “majestic bird, most abundant, and never out of sight, whether on the mountains or the plains of Palestine. Everywhere it is a feature in the sky, as it circles higher and higher, till lost to all but the keenest sight, and then rapidly swoops down again” (Smith’s Dict. of the Bible, ed. 2, i. 815).

were pluckt] were plucked off.

lifted up from the earth] on which, as an animal, it had been lying.

upon the feet] upon two feet.

a man’s heart] i.e. a man’s intelligence: cf. on Daniel 4:16.

The first beast was like a lion, with the wings of the Griffon-Vulture: it combined consequently the characteristics of the noblest of quadrupeds and of one of the most majestic of birds—the indomitable strength of the lion, and the power of the vulture to soar securely on high, to descry its prey from afar, and to alight unerringly upon it. It corresponds to the head of gold in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Daniel 2:32; Daniel 2:38), and denotes, analogously to that, the Babylonian empire (comp. the simile of the lion applied to Nebuchadnezzar in Jeremiah 49:19, and that of the Griffon-Vulture to either Nebuchadnezzar, or his armies, in Jeremiah 49:22; Habakkuk 1:8; Ezekiel 17:3 (see Daniel 7:12); Lamentations 4:19). After a time however a change passes over the figure. Its wings are taken away, i.e. it is deprived of the power of flight; its rapidity of conquest is stopped; nevertheless it is lifted up into an erect position, and receives both the form and intelligence of a man. It seems that Ewald, Keil, Pusey (p. 69 f.) and others are right in seeing here an allusion to what is narrated in ch. 4: the empire is regarded as personified in its head; in Nebuchadnezzar’s loss of reason its powers were crippled: during this time he is described (Daniel 4:16) as having a beast’s heart; afterwards, when his reason returned, and he glorified God (Daniel 4:34; Daniel 4:37), he gave proof that he possessed the heart (intelligence) of a man; the animal (i.e. heathen) character of the empire disappeared, and it was, so to say, humanized in the person of its representative.Verse 4. - The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings: I beheld till the wing. thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man's heart was given to it. The LXX. and Theodotion render "lioness," but otherwise agree with the Massoretic text. The Peshitta does not differ from the received text. The word אריה is epicene. It is, however, to be noted that in later Aramaic the terminal letter was א, not ה. The word gappeen, "wings," is worthy of note; in this form it appears in the Peshitta, i.e. in Eastern Aramaic; genappeen is the Targumie form. No modern commentator has doubted, with, I think, the single exception of Dr. Bonnar ('Great Interregnum'), that the first beast here is the Babylonian Empire (Hitzig, Zockler, Kliefoth, etc.). Nebuchadnezzar is compared (Jeremiah 49:19) to a lion and to an eagle (Jeremiah 4:7; also Ezekiel 17:3), and suitable to this are the winged human-headed figures found in the ruins of Nineveh and Babylon. If we assume that the empire of Babylon is represented by this first beast, then we have to note, in the first place, the avoidance of any reference to numbers. It may be objected that the "eagle's wings," גַפִּין (gappeen), are in the dual. Yet the number two is not mentioned. That the word was in the dual in the pre-Massoretic text does not appear from the versions, so the correctness of the dual pointing may be doubted. Unity was the mark of the Babylonian Empire in the vision of Nebuchadnezzar, and unity still remains its numerical sign. As swiftness and aggressiveness are symbolized by wings, especially "eagle's wings," when we read, "I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked," we learn that before the fall of Babylon a period set in, during which Babylonia ceased to be the aggressive conquering power it had been. A man's heart was given to it. J.D. Michaelis thinks the reference here is to the fact that when they first broke from their original seats, the Chaldeans were barbarians, but they became civilized in Babylonia. We know more now of the early history of Babylon and of the Chaldeans, and know that at one time the latter were divided into many cantons, each under its separate king, and that on and after the conquest of Babylon by Merodach-Baladan, they became more able to act in concert. The circumstances connected with the accession of Nabopolassar are wrapped in mystery. However, it is clear this cannot be the reference here. The giving of the man's heart is brought into close relationship with the plucking of the wings. This fact also decides us against the view so generally maintained, that there is here a reference to the madness of Nebuchadnezzar. In his case the heart of a beast was given to a man; in the case before us the heart of a man is given to a beast. To us the contrast seems more obvious than the resemblance. Much superior is Calvin's interpretation. Speaking of the phrases, "set upon his feet," and "the heart of a man was given to him," Calvin says, "By these modes of speech one understands that the Assyrians and Chaldeans were reduced in rank - that now they were not like lions, but like men" (comp. 2 Samuel 17:10, "Whose heart is as the heart of a lion"). This is the view of Behrmann. There is no reference, then, to any supposed humanizing influences which manifested themselves in Babylonian methods of government after Nebuchadnezzar was restored to his reason. From being an empire that spread its wings over the earth, it became limited very much to Babylonia, if not at times to little more than the territory surrounding the city of Babylon. We find that Nabunahid felt himself ready to be overwhelmed by the encroaching Manda. He manifests nothing of lion-like courage or eagle-like swiftness of assault. This was the state of things when Daniel had this vision. Nabunahid was in Tema, while his son did his best to defend the frontier against the threatening encroachments of Cyrus. Hitzig and Havernick maintain that the attitude suggested by the phrase, "set upon its feet," is what, in heraldic language, is called "rampant;" it is possible, but it rather militates against the natural meaning of the words. Before leaving this, it must be noted that, as in the vision Nebuchadnezzar had of the statue, the symbol of the Babylonian Empire is the noblest metal - the head of gold. Here the noblest animal is the symbol of Babylon - "the lion." The same reason may be assigned here for this, as in the passage in the second chapter for that - that the Babylonian Empire had more in it of the symbol of Divine government. No monarch was more like a god to his subjects; his power was unchecked, unlimited, uncontrolled. The Dream and Its Interpretation. - Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream a great metallic image which was terrible to look upon. אלוּ (behold), which Daniel interchanges with ארו, corresponds with the Hebrew words ראה, ראוּ, or הנּה. צלם is not an idol-image (Hitz.), but a statue, and, as is manifest from the following description, a statue in human form. חד is not the indefinite article (Ges., Win., Maur.), but the numeral. "The world-power is in all its phases one, therefore all these phases are united in the vision in one image" (Klief.). The words from צלמא to יתּיר contain two parenthetical expressions, introduced for the purpose of explaining the conception of שׁגיא (great). קאם is to be united with ואלוּ. דּכּן here and at Daniel 7:20. is used by Daniel as a peculiar form of the demonstrative pronoun, for which Ezra uses דּך. The appearance of the colossal image was terrible, not only on account of its greatness and its metallic splendour, but because it represented the world-power of fearful import to the people of God (Klief.).
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