Haggai 1:6
Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.
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(6) Ye have sown much . . .—Literally, Ye have been sowing much and bringing in little; eating, and it was not to satisfaction; drinking, and it was not to fulness; clothing yourselves, and it was not for any ones being warm, &c. This description of course merely implies that, notwithstanding all their labours, there was not much to eat, drink, or put on. Compare the use of the phrase “ye shall eat and not be satisfied,” in Leviticus 26:26.

To put it into a bag with holes.—The last clause expresses in a bold metaphor the general prevalence of poverty. Scarcity necessitated high prices, so that money “ran away” as fast as it was earned.



Haggai 1:6

A large emigration had taken place from the land of captivity to Jerusalem. The great purpose which the returning exiles had in view was the rebuilding of the Temple, as the centre-point of the restored nation. With true heroism, and much noble and unselfish enthusiasm, they began the work, postponing to it all considerations of personal convenience. But the usual fate of all great national enthusiasms attended this. Political difficulties, hard practical realities, came in the way, and the task was suspended for a time. A handful remained true to the original ideas; the rest fell away. Personal comfort, love of ease, the claims of domestic life, the greed of gain, all the ignoble motives which, like gravitation and friction, check such movements after the first impulse is exhausted, came into play. Like every great cause, this one was launched amidst high hopes and honest zeal: but by degrees the hopes faded and became nothing better than ‘godly imaginations.’ The exiles took to building their own ceiled houses, and let the House of God lie waste. They began to think more of settling on the land than of building the Temple. No doubt they said all the things with which men are wont to hide their selfishness under the mask of duty:-Men must live; we must take care of ourselves; it is mad enthusiasm to build a temple when we have not homes; we mean to build it some time, but we are practical men and must provide for our wants first.’

This wisdom of theirs turned out folly, as it generally does. There came, as we learn from this prophet, a season of distress, in which the harvest, for which they had sacrificed their duties and their calling, failed: and in spite of their prudent diligence, or rather, just because of their misplaced and selfish attention to their worldly well-being, they were poor and hungry. ‘The heaven over them was stayed from dew, and the earth from her fruit.’ Haggai was sent by God to interpret the calamity, and to urge to the fulfilment of their earlier purposes.

His words apply to a supernatural condition of things with which he is dealing, but they contain truths illustrated by it and true for ever. For us all, as truly as for those Jews, the first thing, the primary, all-embracing duty, is to serve God, to obey, love, and live with Him. The same selfish and worldly excuses have force with us: ‘We have business to look after; men must live; we have no time to think about religion; I have built a new mill that occupies my thoughts; I have found a new plaything, and I must try it; I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So God and His claims, Christ and His love, are hustled into a corner to be attended to when opportunity serves, but to be neglected in the meantime. And the same result follows, not by miracle, but by natural necessity. Haggai puts these results in our text with bitter, indignant amplification. His words are all the working out of one idea-the unprofitableness, on the whole and in the long-run, of a godless life. He illustrates this in the clauses of our text in various forms, and my purpose now is simply to apply each of these to the realities of a godless life.

I. It is a life of fruitless toil.

The Prophet pictures the sowing, the abundant seed thrown broadcast, the long waiting, and then, finally, a wretched harvest-a few prematurely yellow ears and short stalks. I remember a friend telling me that when he was a boy he went out reaping with his father in one of our years of great drought; and after a day’s work threshed out all that he had cut, and carried it home with him in his handkerchief. That is what Haggai saw realised in fact, because the sowing had been without God. It is what we may see in others and feel in ourselves. It is the very law and curse of godless toil with its unproductive harvest. The builders set out to build a tower whose top shall reach to heaven, and they never get higher than a story or two. There is nothing more tragic than the contrast between what a man actually accomplishes in his life and what he planned when he began it. Many and many of our lives are like the half-built houses in Pompeii, where the stones are lying that had been all squared and polished, and have never been lifted to their place in the unfinished walls. Much of the seed never comes up at all; and what we gather is always less than what we expected. The prize gleams before us; when we get it, is it as good as it looked when it hung tempting at the unreached goal? A fox-brush is scarcely sufficient payment for riding over half a county. Ah! but you say, there is the enthusiasm and stir of the pursuit. Well, yes; it is something if it is training you for something, and if you can say that faculties worth the cultivating are developed in that way: and whether that is so depends on what you think a man is made for, and on whether these are faculties which will last and find their scope as long as you last. Consider what you are, what you seek; and then say whether the most fruitful harvest from which God and His love are left out is not little.

This fruitlessness of toil is inevitable unless it springs from a motive which in itself is sufficient, pursues a purpose which will surely be accomplished, and is done in hope of the world where ‘our works do follow us.’ If we are allied to Christ, then whether our work be great or small, apparently successful or frustrated, it will be all right. Though we do not see our fruit, we know that He will bless the springing thereof, and that no least deed done for Him but shall in the harvest-day be found waving a nodding head of multiplied results. ‘God giveth it a body as it hath pleased Him’; and ‘he that goeth forth weeping shall doubtless return, bringing his sheaves with him.’ ‘Your labour is not in vain to the Lord.’

II. A godless life is one of unsatisfied hunger and thirst.

The poor results of the exiles’ toil did not avail to stay gnawing hunger nor slake burning thirst, and the same result applies only too sadly to lives lived apart from God. There are a multitude of desires proper to the human soul besides those which belong to the bodily frame, and these have their proper objects. Is it true that the objects are sufficient to satisfy the desires? Does any one of the things for which we toil feed us full when we have it? Do we not always want just a little more? And is not that want accompanied with a real and sharp sense of hunger? Is it not true the appetite GROWS with what it feeds on? And even if a man schools himself to something like content, it comes not because the desire is satisfied, but because it is somehow bridled. Cerberus often breaks his chain, in spite of honied cakes that have been tossed into the wide mouths of his tripled heads. What do wealth and ambition do for their votaries? And even he who thirsts for nobler occupations and lives for higher aims is often obliged to admit, in weariness, that ‘this also is vanity.’

But even when the desire is satisfied, the man desiring is not. To feed their bodies men starve their souls. How many longings are crushed or neglected by him who pushes eagerly after any one longing! We have either to race from one course to another, splitting life into intolerable distractions, or we have to circumscribe and limit ourselves in order to devote all our power to securing one; and if we secure it, then a hundred others will bark like a kennel of hounds.

And if you say, ‘I know nothing about all this; I have my aims, and on the whole I secure a tolerable satisfaction for them,’ do you not know a nameless unrest? If you do not, then you are so much the poorer and the lower, and you have murdered part of yourself. Some one single tyrannous desire sits solitary in your heart. He has slain all his brethren that he may rule, as sultans used to do in Constantinople. One big fish in the aquarium has eaten up all the others.

God only satisfies the soul. It is only the ‘bread which came down from Heaven,’ of which if we eat our souls shall live, and be filled as with marrow and fatness. That One is all-sufficient in His Oneness. Possessing Him, we know no satiety; possessing Him, we do not need to maim any part of our nature; possessing Him, we shall not covet divers multifarious objects. The loftiest powers of the soul find in Him their adequate, inexhaustible, eternal object. The lowest desires may, like the beasts of the forest, seek their meat from God. If we take Him for our own and live on Him by faith, our blessed experience will be, ‘I am full: I have all and abound.’

III. The godless life is one of futile defences.

‘Ye clothe you, but there is none warm.’ The clothing was to guard against the nipping air that blew shrewdly on their hills, and it failed to keep them from the weather. We may be indulging in fancy in this application of our text, but still raiment is as needful as food, and its failure to answer its purpose points to a real sorrow and insufficiency of a life lived without God. In it there is no real defence against the manifold evils which storm upon all of us. When the bitter, biting weather comes, what have you to shelter you from the cold blast? Some rags of stoical resignation or proverbial commonplaces? ‘What is done cannot be helped’; ‘What cannot be cured must be endured’; ‘It is a long lane that has no turning,’ and the like. But what are these? You may have other occupations to interest you, but these will not heal, though they may divert your attention from, your gaping wounds. You have friends, and the like, but though you have all these and much beside, these will not avail. ‘The covering is shorter than that a man can wrap himself in it.’ Naked and shivering, exposed to the pelting and the pitiless storm, with rags soaked through, and chilled to the bone, what is there but death before the man in the wild weather on some trackless moor? And what is there for us if we have to bear the storms and cold of life without God? No doubt most of us struggle through somehow. Time heals much; work does a great deal; to live is so much, that no living being can be wholly miserable. Other cares and other occupations blossom and grow, and the brown mounds get covered with sweet springing grass. But how many lie down and die? How many for the rest of their lives go crushed and broken-spirited? How many carry about with them, deep in their hearts, a sleepless sorrow? How many have to bear passionate paroxysms of agony and bursts of angry grief, all of which might have been softened and soothed and made to gleam with the mellow light of hope as from a hidden sun, if only, instead of defiantly and weakly fronting the world alone, they had found in the man Christ the refuge from the storm and the covert from the tempest. How can a man face all the awful possibilities and the solemn certainties of life without God and not go mad? It is impossible to work without Him; it is impossible to rejoice without Him; but more impossible still, if that could be, is it to endure without Him. It is in union with Jesus Christ, and with Him alone, that we shall receive ‘the pure linen, clean and white,’ which is a surer defence than the warrior’s mail, and ‘being clothed we shall not be found naked.’

IV. A godless life is one of fleeting riches.

In Haggai’s strong metaphor, the poor day-labourer earns his small wage and puts it into a ragged bag, or as we should say, a pocket with a hole in it; and when he comes to look for it, it is gone, and all his toil is for nothing. What a picture this is of the very experience that befalls all men who work for less wages than God’s ‘Well done.’ Take an instance or two: here is a man who works hard for a long time, and puts his money into some bank, and one morning he gets a letter to tell him the bank’s doors are closed, and his savings gone-a bag with holes. Here is a man who climbs by slow degrees to the head of his profession and lives in popular admiration, and some day he sees a younger competitor shooting ahead of him, and all is lost-a bag with holes. Here is a man who has, by some great discovery, established his fame or his fortune, and a new man, standing on his shoulders, makes a greater, and his fame dwarfs and his trade runs into other channels-a bag with holes. Here is a man who has conquered a world, and dies on the rock of St. Helena, with his pompous titles stripped off him, and instead of kingdoms a rood or two of garden, and instead of his legions, half a dozen soldiers, a doctor, and a jailer-a bag with holes. Here is a man who, having amassed his riches and kept them without loss all his life, is dying. They cannot go with him. That would not matter; but unfortunately he has to live yonder, and he will have ‘nothing of all his labour that he can carry away in his hands’-a bag with holes.

Such loss and final separation befall us all; but he who loves God loses none of his real treasure when he parts from earthly treasures. Fortune may turn her wheel as she pleases, his wealth cannot be taken from him. His riches are laid up in a sure storehouse, ‘where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt.’ We each live for ever. Should we not have for our object in life that which is eternal as ourselves? Why should we fix our hopes on that which is not abiding-on things that can perish, on things that we must lose? Let us not run this awful risk. Do not impoverish or darken life here; do not condemn yourselves to unfruitful toil, to unsatisfied desires, to unguarded calamities, to unstable possessions; but come, as sinful men ought to come, to Jesus Christ for pardon and for life. Then, in due season, you will reap if you faint not; and the harvest will not be little, but ‘some sixty-fold and some an hundred-fold’; then you will ‘hunger no more, neither thirst any more,’ but ‘He that hath mercy on you will lead you to living fountains of water’; then you will not have to draw your poor rags round you for warmth, but shall be clothed with the robe of righteousness and the garment of praise; then you will never need to fear the loss of your riches, but bear with you whilst you live your treasures beyond the reach of change, and will find them multiplied a thousand-fold when you die and go to God, your portion and your joy for ever.

1:1-11 Observe the sin of the Jews, after their return from captivity in Babylon. Those employed for God may be driven from their work by a storm, yet they must go back to it. They did not say that they would not build a temple, but, Not yet. Thus men do not say they will never repent and reform, and be religious, but, Not yet. And so the great business we were sent into the world to do, is not done. There is a proneness in us to think wrongly of discouragements in our duty, as if they were a discharge from our duty, when they are only for the trial of our courage and faith. They neglected the building of God's house, that they might have more time and money for worldly affairs. That the punishment might answer to the sin, the poverty they thought to prevent by not building the temple, God brought upon them for not building it. Many good works have been intended, but not done, because men supposed the proper time was not come. Thus believers let slip opportunities of usefulness, and sinners delay the concerns of their souls, till too late. If we labour only for the meat that perishes, as the Jews here, we are in danger of losing our labour; but we are sure it shall not be in vain in the Lord, if we labour for the meat which lasts to eternal life. If we would have the comfort and continuance of temporal enjoyments, we must have God as our Friend. See also Lu 12:33. When God crosses our temporal affairs, and we meet with trouble and disappointment, we shall find the cause is, that the work we have to do for God and our own souls is left undone, and we seek our own things more than the things of Christ. How many, who plead that they cannot afford to give to pious or charitable designs, often lavish ten times as much in needless expenses on their houses and themselves! But those are strangers to their own interests, who are full of care to adorn and enrich their own houses, while God's temple in their hearts lies waste. It is the great concern of every one, to apply to the necessary duty of self-examination and communion with our own hearts concerning our spiritual state. Sin is what we must answer for; duty is what we must do. But many are quick-sighted to pry into other people's ways, who are careless of their own. If any duty has been neglected, that is no reason why it should still be so. Whatever God will take pleasure in when done, we ought to take pleasure in doing. Let those who have put off their return to God, return with all their heart, while there is time.Ye have sown much - The prophet expresses the habitualness of these visitations by a vivid present. He marks no time and so expresses the more vividly that it was at all times. It is one continually present evil. "Ye have sown much and there is a bringing in little; there is eating and not to satisfy; there is drinking and not to exhilarate; there is clothing and not to be warm It is not for the one or the other years, as, since the first year of Darius Hystaspis; it is one continued visitation, coordinate with one continued negligence. As long as the sin lasted, so long the punishment. The visitation itself was twofold; impoverished harvests, so as to supply less sustenance; and various indisposition of the frame, so that what would, by God's appointment in nature, satisfy, gladden, warm, failed of its effect. "And he that laboreth for hire, gaineth himself hire into a bag full of holes" (literally "perforated.") The labor pictured is not only fruitless, but wearisome and vexing. There is a seeming result of all the labor, something to allure hopes; but immediately it is gone. The pagan assigned a like baffling of hope as one of the punishments of hell , "Better and wiser to seek to be blessed by God, Who bestoweth on us all things. And this will readily come to those who choose to be of the same mind with Him and prefer what is for His glory to their own. For so saith the Saviour Himself to us Matthew 6:33, Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."

"He loses good deeds by evil acts, who takes account of his good works, which he hits before his eyes, and forgets the faults which creep in between; or who, after what is good, returns to what is vain and evil" . "Money is seen in the pierced bag, when it is cast in, but when it is lost, it is not seen. They then who look how much they give, but do not weigh how much they gain wrongly, cast their rewards into a pierced bag. Looking to the Hope of their confidence they bring them together; not looking, they lose them."

"They lose the fruit of their labor, by not persevering to the end, or by seeking human praise, or by vain glory within, not keeping spiritual riches under the guardianship of humility. Such are vain and unprofitable men, of whom the Saviour saith, Matthew 6:2. 'Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. '"

6. Nothing has prospered with you while you neglected your duty to God. The punishment corresponds to the sin. They thought to escape poverty by not building, but keeping their money to themselves; God brought it on them for not building (Pr 13:7; 11:24; Mt 6:33). Instead of cheating God, they had been only cheating themselves.

ye clothe … but … none warm—through insufficiency of clothing; as ye are unable through poverty from failure of your crops to purchase sufficient clothing. The verbs are infinitive, implying a continued state: "Ye have sown, and been bringing in but little; ye have been eating, but not to being satisfied; ye have been drinking, but not to being filled; ye have been putting on clothes, but not to being warmed" [Moore]. Careful consideration of God's dealings with us will indicate God's will regarding us. The events of life are the hieroglyphics in which God records His feelings towards us, the key to which is found in the Bible [Moore].

wages … put … into a bag with holes—proverbial for labor and money spent profitlessly (Zec 8:10; compare Isa 55:2; Jer 2:13). Contrast, spiritually, the "bags that wax not old, the treasure in heaven that faileth not" (Lu 12:33). Through the high cost of necessaries, those who wrought for a day's wages parted with them at once, as if they had put them into a bag with holes.

The prophet doth help them, or directs them what in particular they ought to consider, and so debateth it with them: Your labour, care, and charge hath been great in ploughing and sowing, that you are sensible of; but what harvest have you had? O, your barns have been far from full, you have reaped and brought in little; this is evident to all.

Ye eat, you feed on the fruit of your labour and product of the earth,

but ye have not enough; but what you eat doth not nourish you, it doth not suffice; you are hungry and meagre still.

Ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; the like emptiness and unprofitableness in your drink; your water quencheth not your thirst, your wine does not refresh your heart or revive your spirit; or you dare not eat or drink sufficiently for fear you should not have enough, lest your store should fail you.

Ye clothe you, but there is none warm; your wool and flax is not what it used to be, sufficient to defend you from the cold, it will not warm you.

He that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes; who labours or trades to gain and lay up loseth all his labour, it runs from him as money put into a purse or pocket that hath no bottom, that cannot hold it. This fruitless labour you will soon discern, if you consider your ways: and what think you may be the cause of this?

Ye have sown much, and bring in little,.... Contrary to what is usually done; the seed that is sown is but little, in, comparison of what springs up, is reaped, and gathered into the barn; which commonly affords seed again to the sower, and bread to the eater; but here much land was tilled, and a great deal of seed was sown in it; but a thin crop was produced, little was gathered into the barn; a blessing being withheld from the earth, and from their labours, because of their sins, which they would do well to think of, and the cause of it:

ye eat, but ye have not enough; what the earth did yield, and which they gathered in, they made food of, and ate of it; yet it was not sufficient to satisfy their hunger; or it was not blessed for their nourishment; or they had a canine appetite in judgment given them, so that they were never satisfied: or, it was "not for fulness" (q); they were not filled with it to satisfaction, but still craved more; and yet, it may be, durst not eat more, if they had it, lest they should want the next day:

ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; or, "not to inebriation" (r); it was not sufficient to quench their thirst, much less to make them merry and; cheerful: the vines produced such a small quantity of grapes, and those so little wine, that they had not enough to drink, at least could not drink freely, but sparingly, lest it should be all spent before another vintage came:

ye clothe you, but there is none warm; or, "but" it is "not for heat to him" (s); to anyone; so rigorous the season, so extreme the cold, that his clothes will not keep him warm, even though the climate was, naturally and usually hot:

and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes; or, "pierced through" (t); if a man is hired as a labourer, and gets much wages, and brings it home, and lays it up; or if he trades and merchandises, and has great gains by it, and thinks to amass great riches; yet, what through losses, and the dreariness of provisions, and the many ways he has for the spending of his money, it is as if he put it into a bag full of holes, and it ran through as fast as put into it; signifying hereby that all his pains and labour were in vain.

(q) "ad satietatem", Calvin, De Dieu; "ad saturitatem", Munster. (r) "ad ebrietatem", Tigurine version, Vatablus, Calvin, De Dieu. (s) "et non est ad calorem ei", De Dieu; "sed nemo ita ut sit calor ipsi", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "ut calefiat ei", Burkius. (t) "pertusum", V. L. Munster, Tigurine version, Vatablus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "perforatum", Munster, Varenius.

{e} Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.

(e) Consider the plagues of God upon you for preferring your policies to his religion, and because you do not seek him above all else.

6. Ye have sown much, &c.] The expostulation is very abrupt and forcible in the Hebrew, “Ye sowed much, but to bring in little! To eat, but not to satiety! To drink, but not to exhilaration! To clothe (oneself), but not for warmth, to him (the wearer)!” The description refers not to one year, but to many. It coincides with the whole period of their sloth and neglect in the matter of the Temple. It points to a double judgment, dearth and scarcity in the fruits of the ground, and (what often accompanies this, for the same adverse influences which blight the earth are injurious to the human frame) want of power in the body of man, to assimilate and benefit by food and drink and clothing.

he that earneth wages] The judgment is not confined to the fruits of the earth, but extends to all branches of human industry. Disappointment and loss mar all alike. “The labour pictured is not only fruitless, but wearisome and vexing. There is a seeming result of all the labour, something to allure hopes; but forthwith it is gone. The heathen assigned a like baffling of hope as one of the punishments of hell.” Pusey.

Verse 6. - Their labours for years past had lacked the Divine blessing. Though they had fine houses to dwell in, they had been visited with scanty harvests and weak bodily health. Ye have sown much, and bring in little; but to bring in little (Hebrew). And this infinitive absolute is continued in the following clauses, giving remarkable force to the words, and expressing an habitual result. We see from Haggai 2:15-17 that these unfruitful seasons had visited them during all the continuance of their negligence (Deuteronomy 28:38). But ye have not enough. The food which they ate did not satisfy them; their bodies were sickly and derived no strength from the food which they took (Leviticus 26:26; Hosea 4:10) or from the wine which they drank (see note on Micah 6:14). But there is none warm. Perhaps the winters were unusually rigorous, or their infirm health made their usual clothing insufficient to maintain their bodily heat. To put it into a bag with holes. A proverbial saying. The money gained by the hired labourer vanished as if he had never had it, and left no trace of benefit. Comp. Plaut.,'Pseudol.' 1, 3, 150 -

"In pertusum ingerimus dicta dolium; operam ludimus." Haggai 1:6After rebutting the untenable grounds of excuse, Haggai calls attention in vv. 5, 6 to the curse with which God has punished, and is still punishing, the neglect of His house. Haggai 1:5. "And now, thus saith Jehovah of hosts, Set your heart upon your ways. Haggai 1:6. Ye have sowed much, and brought in little: ye eat, and not for satisfaction; drink, and not to be filled with drink: ye clothe yourselves, and it does not serve for warming; and the labourer for wages works for wages into a purse pierced with holes." שׂימוּ לבבכם, a favourite formula with Haggai (cf. v. 7 and Haggai 2:15, Haggai 2:18). To set the heart upon one's ways, i.e., to consider one's conduct, and lay it to heart. The ways are the conduct, with its results. J. H. Michaelis has given it correctly, "To your designs and actions, and their consequences." In their ways, hitherto, they have reaped no blessing: they have sowed much, but brought only a little into their barns. הבא, inf. abs., to bring in what has been reaped, or bring it home. What is here stated must not be restricted to the last two harvests which they had had under the reign of Darius, as Koehler supposes, but applies, according to Haggai 2:15-17, to the harvests of many years, which had turned out very badly. The inf. abs., which is used in the place of the finite verb and determined by it, is continued in the clauses which follow, אכול, etc. The meaning of these clauses is, not that the small harvest was not sufficient to feed and clothe the people thoroughly, so that they had to "cut their coat according to their cloth," as Maurer and Hitzig suppose, but that even in their use of the little that had been reaped, the blessing of God was wanting, as is not only evident from the words themselves, but placed beyond the possibility of doubt by Haggai 1:9.

(Note: Calvin and Osiander see a double curse in Haggai 1:6. The former says, "We know that God punishes men in both ways, both by withdrawing His blessing, so that the earth is parched, and the heaven gives no rain, and also, even when there is a good supply of the fruits of the earth, by preventing their satisfying, so that there is no real enjoyment of them. It often happens that men collect what would be quite a sufficient quantity for food, but for all that, are still always hungry. This kind of curse is seen the more plainly when God deprives the bread and wine of their true virtue, so that eating and drinking fail to support the strength.")

What they ate and drank did not suffice to satisfy them; the clothes which they procured yielded no warmth; and the ages which the day-labourer earned vanished just as rapidly as if it had been placed in a bag full of holes (cf. Leviticus 26:26; Hosea 4:10; Micah 6:14). לו after לחם refers to the individual who clothes himself, and is to be explained from the phrase חם לי, "I am warm" (1 Kings 1:1-2, etc.).

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