Genesis 36:15-43 (An Awareness in the Sons of Adam)

Genesis 36:15-43
An Awareness in the Sons of Adam

Introduction: Today’s sermon will complete Chapter 36. We’ll look at 29 verses which are mostly names of people and a few locations. Very little else is noted here. But because it has been given by God, it would be negligent to simply read the verses and then give a sermon about how to build a bicycle.

Instead, it would be more honoring and fitting to the Creator to at least go through these verses with an eye which is open to some of the multitude of details and seek out the reason for why they’re there. As we’ll discover today, conscience is something given to us by God and which is immensely important to our relationship with Him.

We were created in innocence, not bearing the knowledge of good and evil. Although it was we who strayed from God, He knew that we would and He didn’t stop us from doing so. Why? In order to have creatures who can truly praise Him, they must have an awareness of who they are in relation to Him.

There was much lost at the fall of man, but in the long run, there is much that will be gained because of the fall of man. It is all a part of God’s plan and a portion of that can be seen in today’s lengthy list of names.

Text Verse: …for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) 16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel. Romans 2:14-16

It’s true, we have a law written on our hearts which bears witness through our conscience. It works to either accuse us or to excuse us before God. This conscience can become seared, or it can be kept tender and willing to comply.

However we use it, it will be a source of God’s judgment upon us and it will be done by the One who is qualified to accomplish the task – Jesus Christ. His word is what reveals Him to us and His word is what gives us guidance for our life so that our conscience will be free from stain. And so… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.

I. The Chiefs of the Sons of Esau

15 These were the chiefs of the sons of Esau. The sons of Eliphaz, the firstborn son of Esau, were Chief Teman, Chief Omar, Chief Zepho, Chief Kenaz, 16 Chief Korah, Chief Gatam, and Chief Amalek. These were the chiefs of Eliphaz in the land of Edom. They were the sons of Adah.

This listing here is known as the “chiefs” of Esau. Older translations use the term “duke.” The word is equivalent to the “princes” or “leaders” of Israel. The difference between these people and a king is that a king has been crowned, while the leader or chief hasn’t been.

The reason why the older translations use “duke” is because it comes from a Latin word, dux. This means “leader.” The word here is translated from the Hebrew, alluphay. It has the same meaning, but it also means a thousand in number.

The title “chief” here then is probably something like “the leader of a thousand” or “the leader of a large group.” In Greek this person would be called a chiliarch and in Latin we’d call him something like a centurion, even though a centurion would lead a hundred, not a thousand.

What we see here are the prominent descendants of Esau. The people of their tribes would be called after their name. This first list contains those who descend from Esau’s firstborn son Eliphaz by his wife Adah.

17 These were the sons of Reuel, Esau’s son: Chief Nahath, Chief Zerah, Chief Shammah, and Chief Mizzah. These were the chiefs of Reuel in the land of Edom. These were the sons of Basemath, Esau’s wife.

This second list is given to show the link of Esau’s son Reuel by his wife Basemath.

18 And these were the sons of Aholibamah, Esau’s wife: Chief Jeush, Chief Jaalam, and Chief Korah. These were the chiefs who descended from Aholibamah, Esau’s wife, the daughter of Anah. 19 These were the sons of Esau, who is Edom, and these were their chiefs.

And this third list is given for the chiefs who came from Esau’s wife Aholibamah.

Interestingly, God had these names recorded and preserved not through Esau and his descendants, but through the people of Israel. In other words, God felt the list was so important that He had it kept by His chosen and specially loved people.

If you’re following my drift here, the Bible is a book which, among other things, details the redemption of man. This seemingly tedious and often overlooked list is a part of that process.

If you’ll allow it, God is willing to reach into your heart through such lists to tell you, “I care enough about these long dead people to record their names. And so I also care about you. Your name is recorded and you are a part of my plan. Come to me, learn from me, and be reconciled to me, my precious descendant of Adam.”

Now let’s think about this a little more. Israel maintained these records of the Edomites. They also kept the records of their own genealogies. And some of these are recorded in Bible. In AD70, the Temple where all of their genealogies were kept was destroyed, meaning that the only place where they can be found is the Bible.

And there is only one genealogy of the Jewish people which is intact from Adam on – Jesus’ genealogy. The Jewish people are still waiting on their Messiah, when in fact, there is only one Person who can substantially prove that He is of the line of David and thus the Messiah – Jesus.

This shows us the marvelous wonder of God’s wisdom. The most published book on the face of the earth, bears witness to what God has planned and protected – the record of Jesus. If we can simply look at the bigger picture and see this, then this historical play, with so many little stories which don’t seem to tie together or make sense, actually makes all the sense in the world. How interesting is this book! And yet we stay home to sleep in and then watch TV.

II. The Sons of Seir

20 These were the sons of Seir the Horite who inhabited the land:

Suddenly, in this chapter of the genealogy of Esau, there is the seemingly unrelated genealogy of the sons of Seir. Seir comes from a root word which isn’t used. But there are derivatives of it which combine to give a picture of this people and a picture of us.

Although I’m not actually quoting their work, the study for this name came from Abarim, and I want to note that their work here, and in many of my other sermons, has opened up pictures which otherwise would have remained concealed. They are great resource concerning Hebrew names and concepts.

The name Seir is related to se’ar which means hair, sa’ara which means a single hair, and sa’ir which means hairy. Then there is a verb sa’ar which means to be “very afraid.” When you’re very afraid, your hair stands up – you “bristle with terror.”

Then the noun sa’ir means a he-goat, a bristly haired animal, and the noun se’ora speaks of barley. Barley is the a crop with a hairy, or bristly appearance. Then there is another verb sa’ar meaning to sweep away – something you would do with a hairy broom. From this word comes sa’ar and se’ara which mean “storm” – something that both causes one to bristle with fear and which sweeps away things in its path.

It’s a lot of words, but in the end, the concept of hair and all of these related words tie back to the thought of awareness and a consciousness. This group of people, the sons of Seir, is surely being introduced for three reasons. The first is to show who the land belonged to prior to Esau taking it over, and thus where the name came from.

Secondly, it’s used to show the merging of the Edomites with these people. They intermarried to some extent and eventually, the Edomites dispossessed and destroyed the Horite people.

And finally, they are detailed to show us the state of man and his circumstances in a world where we have a conscience about God. The man named Seir is said to be a Horite. The Horite was first introduced in chapter 14 at the times that the kings of the east came and attacked the land of Canaan.

The name “Horite” means a troglodyte; a cave dweller. There in the land of awareness, they lived in caves. Throughout the Bible, caves are places where people go to hide away or to secret something away. Lot was afraid of living in Zoar and so he and his daughters moved to a cave.

Abraham wanted to bury his dead wife Sarah, and so he bought a cave to secret her away. Hiding away in caves is seen again and again in the Bible. It is a place where one can go because of fear, such as when the kings who fought against Joshua hid from him and his army. They bristled with fear as they hid in their cave.

As you can see, these many related words all suddenly tie together in the introduction of this guy Seir the Horite and his descendants. He is the hairy man dwelling in caves; Adam is the conscious man hiding from God. And so we continue with the list of sons…

21 (con’t) Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, 21 Dishon, Ezer, and Dishan. These were the chiefs of the Horites, the sons of Seir, in the land of Edom.

In Genesis 32:3 we read this, “Then Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother in the land of Seir, the country of Edom.”

If you noticed, it said Esau was living in the land Seir in that verse, but now it says the sons of Seir are living in the land of Edom. There is a purpose and a point to this. Seir and Edom are being tied together so that when one is mentioned, both are understood.

The Edomites represent the people of the world descended from Adam. They have a conscience and they live in fear. Hebrews tells us about that –

“Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Hebrews 2:14, 15

Here we are, living in fear and hiding in caves, waiting for the coming of the One who will destroy him who has the power of death, our old adversary, the devil. God kept these records of names, and the Hebrews who quietly copied them for many long centuries must have wondered why. Only in Messiah is the reason for their inclusion truly understood.

Stated a different way, these verses and names are ultimately given, if for no other reason, than to establish a baseline concerning the state of the people of the world as reflected in the struggle of man before the coming of Messiah. God’s eyes and His thoughts may have seem to be directed only to the people Israel, but in fact, they are squarely on all of His creatures.

If you sometimes feel as if God is unconcerned about you, all you need to do is come to a long and meticulous list like Genesis 36 to see that He really, really cares for you and He willing to go to extraordinary steps to once again call you His own.

22 And the sons of Lotan were Hori and Hemam. Lotan’s sister was Timna.

Lotan is the first son of Seir. His name means “covering.” Although I’m not going to give the meaning of the names of all the sons and grandsons, they are listed for us to see the work of Christ. In the case of Lotan, his name means “covering.” Lotan is derived from the word “lowt” which is used exactly one time in the Bible. It’s speaking of the end of death on earth. This is from Isaiah 25 –

And in this mountain
The Lord of hosts will make for all people
A feast of choice pieces,
A feast of wines on the lees,
Of fat things full of marrow,
Of well-refined wines on the lees.
And He will destroy on this mountain
The surface of the covering cast over all people,
And the veil that is spread over all nations.
He will swallow up death forever,
And the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces;
The rebuke of His people
He will take away from all the earth;
For the Lord has spoken.

If Seir is the conscious man who fears death, then Lotan is that covering. He is the pall of death which has been cast over all people and which affects and torments every nation. In Christ, that pall is destroyed and death is swallowed up in victory. Great stuff.

In addition to naming Lotan and his two sons, it then says, “Lotan’s sister was Timna.” Once again, a girl’s name is mentioned out of the blue in a list of genealogies which is almost entirely centered on men. Seir certainly had lots of daughters, but only she is mentioned. Her name means “restraint.”

Because she becomes the concubine of Eliphaz, the son of Esau, it gave the descendents of Esau the chance to intermix with the people of Seir and eventually take over the land and expel them from it. I read you a quote about that last week from Deuteronomy 2. Eventually, the Horites, Seir’s people, disappear.

So, if I were an evolutionist, I’d use Timna’s introduction here to show how through evolution, the sons of Adam beat out the Neanderthal cavemen who lived in caves to become the dominant race. But that’s not what is happening here at all.

There are two reasons for including her name. The first is that she becomes the mother of Amalek, the great foe of Israel throughout the Old Testament. We read all about that last week. But secondly, she is named because Timna, or restraint, comes from a verb mena which means to hold back. It’s used in Psalm 84:11 this way –

For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
The Lord will give grace and glory;
No good thing will He withhold
From those who walk uprightly.

Despite being the mother of the wicked group known as the Amalekites, I’m sure she’s named here to show us God’s mercy in both withholding His wrath on the Adam’s seed, and demonstrating grace in not withholding any good thing from them when they seek His face.

Despite not being the covenant people, God allowed them to continue throughout the centuries until Christ finally came and opened the path for all. Isn’t that a God of restraint, grace, and mercy! And that same restraint is seen today as the world continues to reject what has already happened.

Even after sending us His Son, He continues to patiently wait and tug at our hearts until the day we wake up from our slumber and call on Him. I can only be grateful that He waited so long for me…

23 These were the sons of Shobal: Alvan, Manahath, Ebal, Shepho, and Onam. 24 These were the sons of Zibeon: both Ajah and Anah. This was the Anah who found the waterin the wilderness as he pastured the donkeys of his father Zibeon.

If you want to pursue a real rabbit’s tale, this is a fun verse to do it. Here it says Anah “found the water in the wilderness.” Nobody is sure what this means. Some translators say he found mules, some say he found a race of giants called the Emmim, some say hot springs, some warm springs, and the NKJV simply says water.

One thing is sure, he found something there in the wilderness as he pastured his father’s donkeys. Adam Clarke said that, “From the above opinions and versions the reader may choose which he likes best, or invent one for himself.” Ok Adam… He found a five pound bag of super sour neon goomy worms. Anyway,,, there’s one of those little mysteries found in the Bible.

In the next six verses, 25 different names or places are mentioned. If you really want to know what every one of them means, email me and I’ll send you the information. Otherwise, I’ll just quote the verses for you to keep our stream of Genesis going uninterrupted.

25 These were the children of Anah: Dishon and Aholibamah the daughter of Anah. 26 These were the sons of Dishon: Hemdan, Eshban, Ithran, and Cheran. 27 These were the sons of Ezer: Bilhan, Zaavan, and Akan. 28 These were the sons of Dishan: Uz and Aran. 29 These were the chiefs of the Horites: Chief Lotan, Chief Shobal, Chief Zibeon, Chief Anah, 30 Chief Dishon, Chief Ezer, and Chief Dishan. These were the chiefs of the Horites, according to their chiefs in the land of Seir.

And so thus ends the list of the people of Seir…

III. The Kings of Edom

31 Now these were the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king reigned over the children of Israel:

After the diversion into the people and places of Seir before and during the time of the Edomites, the genealogy now returns to Edom and those who reigned as king over the land. But it says that they are those who reigned “before any king reigned over the children of Israel.”

The question that must arise here is, “How could this have been written by Moses (Genesis is in Moses’ five books) if it speaks of kings reigning over Israel, which didn’t happen until long after the time of Moses?” In fact, it was about 400 years later. The answer is that Moses wrote in a future sense. The promise by God was already made to Abraham that kings would come from him.

Moses also spoke about the establishment of a kingship in Deuteronomy 17. Here is the passage in its entirety –

14 “When you come to the land which the Lord your God is giving you, and possess it and dwell in it, and say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me,’ 15 you shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses; one from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. 16 But he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall not return that way again.’ 17 Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself. 18 “Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. 19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, 20 that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel.

So no problem here. People do attempt to find fault in the Bible over things like this, but there is always an answer to the doubter of God’s word.

32 Bela the son of Beor reigned in Edom, and the name of his city was Dinhabah. 33 And when Bela died, Jobab the son of Zerah of Bozrah reigned in his place. 34 When Jobab died, Husham of the land of the Temanites reigned in his place. 35 And when Husham died, Hadad the son of Bedad, who attacked Midian in the field of Moab, reigned in his place. And the name of his city was Avith. 36 When Hadad died, Samlah of Masrekah reigned in his place. 37 And when Samlah died, Saul of Rehoboth-by-the-River reigned in his place. 38 When Saul died, Baal-Hanan the son of Achbor reigned in his place. 39 And when Baal-Hanan the son of Achbor died, Hadar reigned in his place; and the name of his city was Pau. His wife’s name was Mehetabel, the daughter of Matred, the daughter of Mezahab.

One more thing about this list of names. None of them have to be names of the descendants of Esau. Instead, they could be kings who reigned in the land of Edom even before it became Edom. We can’t be certain of who these people are or when they actually reigned. After this list, comes the last list in the chapter. Three verses for us to read…

40 And these were the names of the chiefs of Esau, according to their families and their places, by their names: Chief Timnah, Chief Alvah, Chief Jetheth, 41 Chief Aholibamah, Chief Elah, Chief Pinon, 42 Chief Kenaz, Chief Teman, Chief Mibzar, 43 Chief Magdiel, and Chief Iram. These were the chiefs of Edom, according to their dwelling places in the land of their possession. Esau was the father of the Edomites.

This last list of three verses is believed to be the chiefs of Esau who reigned after the convergence of the people of Seir and Edom. In other words, the joint influence of both groups is highlighted, thus showing the transition from the people of Seir to the people of Edom who will eventually completely replace them.

So here we have the 43 verses of chapter 36 with all of this detail. Name after name has been given and they have been interspersed with just a little bit of historical or geographical information.

One lesson that we can take home from all of this is that although the line of promise, from Adam, through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is highlighted, God has still watched over the other people of the world in the process. None are lost to Him.

Every son of Adam, pictured by the people of Edom, is named and remembered. The details of their lives are known to God. These lists are written and recorded to show that the promises that were made to Esau were fulfilled exactly as they were given.

The people of Seir have been added to the list to show how Seir and Edom united and became one people, but they are also given to show us that in Adam there is an awareness of conscience which permeates all men. It is a conscious knowledge of God.

The Horites were cave dwellers who hid from God’s presence, just as Adam and Eve hid from the Lord when He came to them in the Garden. The awareness of their sin and their fallen nature caused them to draw back from the One they had only a short time earlier beheld face to face.

In the loss of the friendship and intimacy came something new though, actually two things. The first was death. Death came in two forms. The first was spiritual. This was something promised would happen and it was immediate. Before he ate of the fruit the Lord told the man that on the day he ate of it, he would die.

The second form of death was physical. This type of death is less severe than the other, but often more feared. The reason is that if the first type of death isn’t corrected before the second type comes, then the first type will last for all eternity. The horrifying inevitability of physical death was announced to Adam –

“Cursed is the ground for your sake;
In toil you shall eat of it
All the days of your life.
18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
And you shall eat the herb of the field.
19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return.”

Death, both types of death, came through man’s rebellion and since that time, man has been secreted away in the caves of the earth, hiding from God, and also being hidden in death.

The second thing which came about in the garden was an awareness, a consciousness that man didn’t previously have. Here is how Genesis describes it –

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. Genesis 3:22

Just as Adam moved into a new realm and a new dispensation – that of Conscience, Esau moved into a new area and a new home – that of Seir. After the move, yes, there was an ongoing struggle between the sons of Israel and the sons of Edom. The struggle continued right into the times just before Christ.

In 129 BC, the people of Edom were assimilated into the people of Israel and they became one people. Not long after this, Jesus came and walked among us. He, the true Israel, made it possible for all of the hairy sons of Adam to be united into the covenant people.

There is now no distinction between people groups in Christ. All are one in Messiah. But there are still distinctions in peoples. In everything, there are always two categories. As a wise man once said, “There are only two groups of people. There are those who put everything into two categories… and there is everyone else.”

Though cute, he’s right you know. Concerning us, there are those who are in Adam and those who are in Christ. There are those who are a part of the commonwealth of Israel and entitled to eternal blessings, and there are those who are outside the promises and who remain spiritually dead.

There are those whose father is the devil and there are those who, because of Jesus, have God as their Father. And these are the only two categories the Bible reveals. The little book of 1 John, back towards the end of the Bible tells us it is so –

He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.  1 John 3:8

Such is the nature of the work of Christ. It is an all or nothing deal. Who then, is your father? In hopes that you have, or will accept Him, I’d like to take a moment and give a short explanation of why accepting Him is so very important to you, and how you can do it…

Closing Verse: There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him. 1 Peter 3:21, 22


Next Week: – Genesis 37:1-11 (Sheaves of the Field and Stars of the Sky) (92nd Genesis Sermon)  – Make sure to read and study those verses.

The Lord has you exactly where He wants you and He has a good plan and purpose for you. Call on Him and let Him do marvelous things for you and through you.

Esau and Seir
(A Lot of Names for One Poem)

These were the chiefs of the sons of Esau
The sons of Eliphaz, Esau’s firstborn son
Were Chief Teman, Chief Omar, Chief Zepho, Chief Kenaz
Chief Korah, Chief Gatam, and Chief Amalek, he was the last one

These were the chiefs of Eliphaz in the land of Edom
They were the sons of Adah, and she was their mom

These were the sons of Reuel, Esau’s son:
Chief Nahath, Chief Zerah, and more to tell
Chief Shammah, and Chief Mizzah
These were the chiefs of Reuel

In the land of Edom where they lived their life
These were the sons of Basemath, Esau’s wife

And these were the sons of Aholibamah, Esau’s wife:
Chief Jeush, Chief Jaalam, and Chief Korah
These were the chiefs who from Aholibamah descended
Esau’s wife, the daughter of Anah, zippity doo dah

These were the sons of Esau, who is Edom
And these were their chiefs, and the name of each mom

These were the sons of Seir the Horite
Who inhabited the land:
Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, yes that’s right
Dishon, Ezer, and Dishan – making quite a clan

These were the chiefs of the Horites, not folks in Vietnam
They, the sons of Seir, in the land of Edom

And the sons of Lotan were Hori and Hemam
Lotan’s sister was Timna, would you remember in an exam?

These were the sons of Shobal, we have five names
Alvan, Manahath, Ebal, Shepho, and Onam
To remember them all, make up some word games…

These were the sons of Zibeon, I hope you remember well
Both Ajah and Anah, their names as the Bible does tell

This was the Anah who found the water
In the wilderness as he roamed around
As he pastured the donkeys of Zibeon his father
The find brought him a name widely renowned

These were the children of Anah
The names they were given
Dishon and Aholibamah the daughter of Anah
Recorded in the land of the livin’

These were the sons of Dishon, here we have four
Hemdan, Eshban, Ithran, and Cheran, names we shouldn’t ignore

These were the sons of Ezer:
Bilhan, Zaavan, and Akan, just these three
These were the sons of Dishan:
Uz and Aran, that’s only two – as you can see

These were the chiefs of the Horites:
Chief Lotan, Chief Shobal, Chief Zibeon, Chief Anah too
Chief Dishon, Chief Ezer, and Chief Dishan all with the rights
To be called Horite chiefs, a pretty big to-do!

These were the chiefs of the Horites, all listed here
According to their chiefs in the land of Seir

Now these were the kings who reigned
In the land of Edom before any
King reigned over the children of Israel:
And yes, yes there were many

Bela the son of Beor in Edom reigned
And the name of his city was Dinhabah a nice space
And when Bela died, the Bible explained
Jobab the son of Zerah of Bozrah reigned in his place

When Jobab died the account we can retrace
Husham of the land of the Temanites reigned in his place

And when Husham died, Hadad the son of Bedad
Who attacked Midian in Moab’s field
Reigned in his place, making proud his dad
And the name of his city was Avith as is revealed

When Hadad died, as we all do
Samlah of Masrekah reigned in his place
And when Samlah died making his friends go “boo hoo”
Saul of Rehoboth-by-the-River reigned, Samlah he did replace

When Saul died, Baal-Hanan the son of Achbor
Reigned in his place
And when Baal-Hanan the son of Achbor died
Hadar, then Baal-Hanan, did replace

And the name of his city was Pau
His wife’s name was Mehetabel
The daughter of Matred who you know now
Was the daughter of Mezahab, as you can tell

And these were the names of the chiefs of Esau
According to their families and their places
By their names, we’re almost done – hurrah!
Chief Timnah, Chief Alvah, Chief Jetheth – so many faces

And Chief Aholibamah, Chief Elah, Chief Pinon,
Chief Kenaz, Chief Teman, Chief Mibzar
Chief Magdiel, and Chief Iram, now the list is gone
Almost long enough to reach to Myanmar!

These were the chiefs of Edom we see
According to their dwelling places
In the land of their possession, by divine decree
Esau was the father of the Edomites and all these named faces

This account has been long, but necessary too
God detailed these things in His word for me and for you

All leading us to understand the work of Jesus better
So let’s treasure every name, every word, every letter

Thank You Lord for such tender care of us
Thank You Lord for sending Your Son, our Lord, Jesus

Hallelujah and Amen…

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