Blessings and curses are a reality in Scripture, but also in our lives. We don’t always realize it, because we are so far removed from YHVH’s ways. In some circles, blessings and curses are regarded as words having intrinsic power or magic. We don’t see it as magic, but if you read Scripture, you will see that blessings and curses are powerful. In this article and the next, we will learn why this is so. We will first look at blessings and curses from YHVH’s perspective and also from the perspective of us as believers. In the next article we will look at curses and blessings from unbelievers and its possible effect on us. We will also look at generational curses and how we can break them.
We will first see what the words mean in the Biblical context.
What do the words blessing and curse mean?
We first want to look at the meaning of the word blessing and curse to see what we can learn from that.
1384 I. בָּרַךְ (bā·rǎḵ): v.; ≡ Str 1288; TWOT 285—LN 17.19 (qal) kneel down, i.e., to be or go to a stance in which one is on the knees as contrasted with standing on the feet, with the back straight or bent (2Ch 6:13; Ps 95:6+), note: in context this position can be a position of worship or humility; (hif) make kneel, cause to take a kneeling stance (Ge 24:11+)
1385 II. בָּרַךְ (bā·rǎḵ): v.; ≡ Str 1288; TWOT 285—1. LN 33.470–33.475 (piel) bless another, commend, i.e., speak words invoking divine favor, with the intent that the object will have favorable circumstances or state at a future time (Ge 1:22); (qal pass.) be blessed (Ge 9:26); (nif) be blessed (Ge 12:3; 18:18; Ge 28:14+); (pual) be blessed (Nu 22:6); (hitp) be blessed, invoke a blessing (Ge 22:18; 26:4; Dt 29:18[EB 19]; Ps 72:17; Isa 65:16, 16; Jer 4:2+), see also domain LN 22.42–22.47; 2. LN 33.354–33.364 (piel) praise, extol, thank for greatness/goodness, i.e., speak words of the excellence of an object (Ps 63:5[EB 4]), note: usually used as an act. of worship; (qal pass.) praise be (Ru 4:14); (pual) praise be (Job 1:21); 3. LN 33.11–33.25 (piel) greet, formally, bless, i.e., meet another with a positive verbal exchange, as a type of discourse (1Sa 13:10); 4. LN 33.470–33.475 (piel) curse, formally, bless, i.e., cause harm or injury by means of a statement, as a euphemism or ironic use with an opposite meaning of bless (1Ki 21:10, 13; Job 1:5, 11; 2:5, 9+)2
It is fascinating to see what the word “bless” means in Hebrew. A blessing from YHVH’s perspective means to make to kneel down in a position of worship or humility or praise and from a human perspective to speak words invoking divine favor. Keep this in mind as we look at the word curse.
The word curse is of course the opposite of bless
7837 קָלַל (qā·lǎl): v.; ≡ Str 7043; TWOT 2028—1. LN 59.11–59.22 (qal) recede, grow smaller, i.e., be in a state of a mass becoming less and so lowering in elevation (Ge 8:8, 11+); 2. LN 88.192–88.197 (qal) disdain, despise, be vile, i.e., be in a state of contempt for an object, showing little regard or value to the object (Ge 16:4, 5; 1Sa 2:30+); (hif) humble, treat with contempt (2Sa 19:44; Job 40:4; Isa 8:23; 23:9; Eze 22:7; Na 1:14+); 3. LN 68.79–68.82 (qal) be swift, i.e., move in a sudden or rapid manner, as a figurative extension of being of light weight and so able to move quickly (2Sa 1:23; Job 7:6; 9:25; Jer 4:13; Hab 1:8+); (nif) be swift (Isa 30:16+); 4. LN 65.1–65.16 (nif) become trivial, be not serious, i.e., not be of value according to an estimation or evaluation (2Sa 6:22; 1Ki 16:31; Isa 49:6; Jer 6:14; 8:11; Eze 8:17+); 5. LN 22.38–22.41 (nif) be easy, i.e., pertaining to that which is not difficult and so not as much of a physical or emotional strain to endure (2Ki 3:18; 20:10; Pr 14:6+); (hif) lighten, make easier (Ex 18:22; 1Sa 6:5; 1Ki 12:4, 9, 10; 2Ch 10:4, 9, 10+); 6. LN 33.470–33.475 (piel) curse, blaspheme, revile, i.e., invoke divine harm to an object, implying anger or great displeasure toward the object (1Sa 17:43), note: when the focus is on slandering or insulting the reputation of another (even God), see also domain LN 33.387–33.403; (pual) be accursed (Job 24:18; Ps 37:22; Isa 65:20+); 7. LN 86.1–86.3 (hif) make lighter, i.e., make an object relatively less heavy (Jnh 1:5+); 8. LN 79.95–79.96 (pilpel) sharpen, i.e., place a thin cutting edge on an instrument (Ecc 10:10+); 9. LN 30.86–30.107 (pilpel) cast lot, i.e., chose a course of action by throwing an object and interpreting the way it lands for a decision for the future (Eze 21:26[EB 21]+); 10. LN 16 (hitpalpel) quake, shake, sway, i.e., move back and forth in non-linear motion (Jer 4:24+), note: 1Sa 18:23, see 78292
The human perspective is to invoke divine harm, whereas YHVH’s perspective is to effect change. It means to lower in elevation, to despise, make trivial, sharpen and shake. The actions linked to the word curse seem to be able to affect change to the object.
YHVH, on the other hand, wants people to repent and return to Him. He wants to bring them low, humble them and acknowledge Him as their only Elohim. He wants to shake and sharpen those who has departed from His ways. If you look at a blessing and curse from YHVH’s perspective, it becomes apparent that both have the same end-result. Both have the result of bringing people to their knees. A blessing brings people to their knees in praise and a curse in repentance. Both blessing and curse can be used by YHVH to deepen or restore our relationship with Him.
Those who are righteous will be blessed and will bow down and praise YHVH as a result of the blessing and those who are unrighteous will be brought so low that they will return to YHVH. A curse from YHVH really is the discipline of a loving Father.
All of us are currently living under such a curse or discipline. Most people have rejected YHVH and instead live for self. They will be brought very low and some will return to YHVH. I say return even of those who have never known YHVH because all people belong to Him. Sadly, some will not return and will be destroyed. There is still time to return and be part of the household of YHVH. Allow me to explain this in more detail.
Curses from YHVH and the Sabbatical year
There are many examples in Scripture of YHVH using curses to punish His people in order to return them to Him. These curses spoken through His prophets are warnings of what would happen to His people if they do not return in obedience to Him. As YHVH’s people, He wants us to honor Him as King and keep His instructions, which He gave for our own good. When we don’t, He wants to help us to return, for leaving us would lead to our destruction.
We have learned that Idolatry and other sin (covenantal unfaithfulness) can defile our land, our homes and our lives. This defilement is spiritual and results in curses. The word “cursed” means “under judgment.” Here is another definition:
460 IV. אָלָה (ʾā·lā(h)): n.fem.; ≡ Str 423; TWOT 91a—1. LN 33.470–33.475 curse, i.e., the invoking of divine harm as a retribution (Nu 5:23); 2. LN 33.470–33.475 cursed, accursed, i.e., that which has been cursed (Nu 5:27; Jer 29:18; 42:18; 44:12); 3. LN 33.463–33.469 oath, sworn agreement, public charge, i.e., a binding agreement that has divine sanctions for breaking (Ge 24:41)2
In Deut 29:14-29, it is described how when a person’s heart turns from YHVH to serve idols, YHVH will curse his land. Another example is found in Leviticus 26:1-46. These curses are as a result of covenantal unfaithfulness or spiritual adultery.
When we read Leviticus 26, for example, it confirms that these curses are specifically linked to covenantal unfaithfulness. That means disobedience to YHVH’s commandments. Here not keeping the Sabbatical year is specifically mentioned. In 2016, the first of Aviv, will be the beginning of the next sabbatical year. We have proved it through research. This commandment is not only for the land of Israel. It is for everybody to keep. We have addressed the most common objections to keeping the Sabbatical year in the article Preparing for the Sabbatical year.
Do not listen to all those teachers who tell you that is only for the land of Israel, go read about it in Scripture and don’t spiritualize it, we are to, physically, keep the Sabbatical year. If you want to learn how, you can go to our website and you will find many articles under the category Appointed times/ Sabbatical and Jubilee.
This is important, not doing this, as well as the other commandments, will ensure that the curses on the nations, on us, will continue. This new Sabbatical cycle will start the cycle of war, we are already seeing signs of it everywhere and after that comes captivity. This is serious and national repentance and obedience is required for the curses to stop. We have explained more about the curses and the Sabbatical years in the article If you will not return to me
This is not a hopeless situation as YHVH has promised restoration, if we return to Him in obedience.
Breaking the curse
These curses can be broken by returning to YHVH. YHVH will restore, if we return.
Returning to YHVH in obedience means we are to keep His commandments. We are not to spiritualize His commandments, but physically keep those we can. It is logical that we cannot keep the commandments pertaining to the Temple or priests and a few other, but there are many we can keep like YHVH’s Sabbaths: the weekly, the annual (the feasts) and the seven year sabbaths (the sabbatical year.)
We are to return to YHVH where we are, in the nations. That means we are to keep His commandments, as best we can, where we are. Read this passage in Deuteronomy. It doesn’t say we are to wait until we are back in the land before we obey. It says we are to return to YHVH and obey Him with all our heart and soul according to what was commanded. Our heart is spiritual and our soul is our flesh – physical. This confirms that we are to obey both spiritually and physically. If you only go through the motions without your heart being in it, it is just as incomplete as spiritualizing everything. So when we obey with our heart and soul, then the curses would stop.
1 “So it shall be when all of these things have come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind in all nations where YHVH your Elohim has banished you, 2 and you return to YHVH your Elohim and obey Him with all your heart and soul according to all that I command you today, you and your sons, 3 then YHVH your Elohim will restore you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the peoples where YHVH your Elohim has scattered you. 4 “If your outcasts are at the ends of the earth, from there YHVH your Elohim will gather you, and from there He will bring you back. 5 “YHVH your Elohim will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it; and He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers.
8 “And you shall again obey YHVH, and observe all His commandments which I command you today. 9 “Then YHVH your Elohim will prosper you abundantly in all the work of your hand, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your cattle and in the produce of your ground, for YHVH will again rejoice over you for good, just as He rejoiced over your fathers; 10 if you obey YHVH your Elohim to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law, if you turn to YHVH your Elohim with all your heart and soul. 11 “For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach.
This is encouraging, because it means we still have time . YHVH wants to be first in our lives, and He wants to bless us. The choice is ours…
Blessings from YHVH
Blessings from YHVH are varied and are sometimes promised to the nation and other times to individuals. We have seen that blessings are bestowed for obedience and curses for disobedience. You can read more about national blessings in Leviticus 26:1-13 and Deuteronomy 28:1-15.
The blessings spoken of in these passages are for the nation, for all of us. The sad part is that even if an individual chooses to obey YHVH, he or she will be affected by what happens to the nation when they choose not to obey. However, YHVH can protect those who choose Him. He is our refuge and stronghold. He also promised that a remnant will remain.
Noah is a good example. He was the only righteous man among the people of his time. He chose to obey YHVH and he and his family were saved from the flood that destroyed everything.
A blessing is not something we can inadvertently claim based on certain behavior. Some people believe that if we keep YHVH’s commandments we deserve to be blessed. This is not a good attitude to have. YHVH is sovereign and we are imperfect. Everything we receive out of His hand is done through His grace and mercy. He has given Y’shua to take these imperfections upon Himself. In Y’shua, we are righteous, and blessed as a result of that righteousness. You can read more about the significance of the blood of Y’shua in the previous week’s article.
What YHVH has spoken will come to pass.
A blessing or curse pronounced by YHVH cannot be revoked by man
We read in numbers that a blessing from YHVH cannot be revoked by a man.
20 “Behold, I have received a command to bless; When He has blessed, then I cannot revoke it.
A blessing and a curse are like an oath. When it comes to blessings and curses spoken by YHVH, it is not difficult to understand because we know from Scripture that the blessings YHVH spoke were spoken by oath.
16 and said, “By Myself I have sworn, declares YHVH, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”
3 “Sojourn in this land and I will be with you and bless you, for to you and to your descendants I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath which I swore to your father Abraham. 4 “I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; 5 because Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws.”
We can take YHVH at His word. He will do what He has promised. His words have power and will not return void. Every word that YHVH has spoken will be fulfilled, this includes every blessing and curse. The only way to stop curses spoken by YHVH is with sincere repentance.
In Scripture, we also find examples of people speaking blessings over others. Like a father blessing His children before he dies. There are also examples of curses spoken over others. We also see that these blessings and curses were fulfilled. Why is this? What gives power to a blessing or curse spoken by a human being?
Blessings and curses spoken by believers
We want to include these under YHVH’s perspective, because you will see when YHVH is involved in any blessing or curse spoken, that it has His power behind it. There are a few examples of this in Scripture. Moses blessed the tribes of Israel before he died. Jacob blessed his twelve sons and Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau.
Let’s look at the blessing of Jacob as an example.
Isaac blessed Jacob as firstborn
Isaac told Esua to prepare a dish for him so he can bless him in the presence of YHVH. Isaac was deceived by Jacob and he gave Jacob the blessing of the firstborn, thinking it was Esau. When he was finished blessing Jacob, Esau came back from the field, prepared a meal for Jacob and was ready to receive the blessing. However, the blessing was already given to Jacob.
When Isaac found out that he was deceived, he was very upset, but look at what he said: “Yes, he shall be blessed”
33 Then Isaac trembled violently, and said, “Who was he then that hunted game and brought it to me, so that I ate of all of it before you came, and blessed him? Yes, and he shall be blessed.” 34 When Esau heard the words of his father, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, “Bless me, even me also, O my father!” 35 And he said, “Your brother came deceitfully and has taken away your blessing.”
I was wondering why Isaac couldn’t just revoke his words and bless Esua instead seeing that he was deceived. There seems to be something irrevocable about a blessing, even when given by a human.
Esau did receive a blessing from Isaac, but a very different one. It almost sounded like a curse…You can read about it in Gen 27:38-40.
The same irrevocability is seen when it comes to a curse. When Balak wanted Balaam to curse Israel, YHVH would not allow it. Every time he opened his mouth to curse Israel, a blessing was spoken instead.
11 Then Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I took you to curse my enemies, but behold, you have actually blessed them!” 12 He replied, “Must I not be careful to speak what YHVH puts in my mouth?”
These two passages have something in common. In both, YHVH is part of the process, so to speak. In the case of Balaam, he said “Must I not be careful to speak what YHVH puts in my mouth?” and in Gen 27:7 Isaac said to Esau “bless you in the presence of YHVH.” From this, we learn that YHVH was the power behind those blessings.
We see the same when we read of blessings or curses spoken over Israel by the prophets. When YHVH spoke through them, their words were fulfilled. From all this, we have learned that YHVH is the power behind blessings or curses even when spoken by humans, IF these were spoken in His name and according to His will.
A good example is the Aaronic blessing. YHVH gave the priests a special blessing to speak over the people.
22 Then YHVH spoke to Moses, saying, 23 “Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, ‘Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel. You shall say to them: 24 YHVH bless you, and keep you; 25 YHVH make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; 26 YHVH lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.’ 27 “So they shall invoke My name on the sons of Israel, and I then will bless them.”
The word “invoke” can be replaced with “place.” So, when Aaron and his sons blessed the people, they placed YHVH’s name on them and He blessed them.
The question is, is this still true for us today? And if yes, how will we know if what we speak is from YHVH? We can equate a blessing to a prayer. We know that when we pray, YHVH will answer our prayer if it is in accordance to His will. It is the same with a blessing. For this reason, we can, with YHVH’s leading, use Scripture to bless each other.
Here are some examples:
13 Now may the Elohim of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
5 Now may the Elohim who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Messiah Y’shua, 6 so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the Elohim and Father of our Master Y’shua Messiah.
20 Now the Elohim of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Y’shua our Master, 21 equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Y’shua Messiah, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Even if we use YHVH’s words to bless another, we cannot expect YHVH to bless us or another person if we live in willful disobedience.
25 “But you shall serve YHVH your Elohim, and He will bless your bread and your water; and I will remove sickness from your midst.
Just as blessings spoken by people have an effect, so does curses.
Curses spoken against loved ones or ourselves
We sometimes inadvertently speak curses over other people, loved ones or enemies. Some believers may think they are doing good, praying their will for you and that may be to your detriment. Let me give you an example. We homeschool and say a person close to us does not approve of this and may pray to YHVH to make it impossible for us, thinking that they are “doing what is best for the children.” They are in this way actually placing a curse on our homeschooling. YHVH will perform His will, He will not do theirs, but ha satan may use this and make it difficult for us. Ha satan is not omnipresent, but there may be demons present doing his bidding. Be careful of “well meant” prayers or remarks, you may be placing a curse on others.
Something we have experienced after we bought this place, was friends and acquaintances making negative remarks about the place and saying that we have bitten off too much for us to handle. Or asking how we think we are going to pull it off. I am convinced that these remarks have some spiritual impact. Their intention may not have been to cause harm, but it may. Our words are so important and powerful. We are to be careful with our words. Life and death are in the power of the tongue.
21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.
Let’s look at an example from Scripture.
Jacob spoke a curse over the one who took the household idols, not knowing it was his beloved wife Rachel. She died later in childbirth.
32 “The one with whom you find your gods shall not live; in the presence of our kinsmen point out what is yours among my belongings and take it for yourself.” For Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them.
16 Then they journeyed from Bethel; and when there was still some distance to go to Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth and she suffered severe labor. 17 When she was in severe labor the midwife said to her, “Do not fear, for now you have another son.” 18 It came about as her soul was departing (for she died), that she named him Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin.
Was her death the result of this curse spoken? It could be…
We can also speak curses over ourselves. David spoke a curse over himself without knowing it.
YHVH sent Nathan to David to confront him with his adultery with Batsheba. He shared a parable with him, to which David exclaimed that the one who did that must make restitution fourfold.
2 Samuel 12:5–6
5 Then David’s anger burned greatly against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As YHVH lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die. 6 “He must make restitution for the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing and had no compassion.”
When David said that, he was quoting Torah – the law of restitution for stealing a sheep (Ex 22:1), but he also pronounced this punishment over himself, which is in effect speaking a curse over himself. Four of his sons died because of this. The baby he had with Batsheba died, as well as his eldest son Amnon, later also Absalon and Adonijah. The curse he, in essence, spoke over himself was fulfilled, he made restitution fourfold. He did not die, because he repented and YHVH showed mercy to him.
What David pronounced over himself was in line with the punishment YHVH had in mind for him (2 Sam 12:10-11).
In all these examples, we see that YHVH was the power behind the blessings or curses.
There are many examples in Scripture of imprecatory prayers, or prayers of cursing against enemies. David often prayed for YHVH to curse his enemies (Ps 69: 27-28, Ps 109). Jeremiah prayed similar prayers (Jer18:19-23; Jer 15:15)
20 But, O YHVH of hosts, who judges righteously, Who tries the feelings and the heart, Let me see Your vengeance on them, For to You have I committed my cause.
Psalm 109 is a good example. Is this something we should engage in?
There are a few things to ask yourself before you do.
- Are you innocent and righteous? David was innocent and he was righteous.
- Are you blameless? David was; he often asked YHVH to search his own heart to see if there was any wickedness in him.
- Do you pray for your enemies and do good to them? David did that.
- His enemies were wicked and their wickedness was not only against David, but against YHVH. David called YHVH’s judgment upon them.
1 O Elohim of my praise, Do not be silent! 2 For they have opened the wicked and deceitful mouth against me; They have spoken against me with a lying tongue. 3 They have also surrounded me with words of hatred, And fought against me without cause. 4 In return for my love they act as my accusers; But I am in prayer. 5 Thus, they have repaid me evil for good And hatred for my love.
2 Samuel 3:28–29
28 Afterward when David heard it, he said, “I and my kingdom are innocent before YHVH forever of the blood of Abner the son of Ner. 29 “May it fall on the head of Joab and on all his father’s house; and may there not fail from the house of Joab one who has a discharge, or who is a leper, or who takes hold of a distaff, or who falls by the sword, or who lacks bread.”
We should not dare to pray prayers of imprecation unless we are like David, innocent against the accusations of the wicked and blameless before YHVH. We are to be quick to have YHVH search our own hearts for iniquity, less YHVH judge us the same He does the wicked. Imprecatory prayers can only be prayed by the righteous.
Did you know there are many prohibitions against cursing in Scripture?
Prohibitions against cursing
You shall not curse YHVH or a ruler of your people
28 “You shall not curse Elohim, nor curse a ruler of your people.
20 Furthermore, in your bedchamber do not curse a king, and in your sleeping rooms do not curse a rich man, for a bird of the heavens will carry the sound and the winged creature will make the matter known.
5 And Paul said, “I was not aware, brethren, that he was high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’ ”
You shall not curse your mother or father
17 “He who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.
9 ‘If there is anyone who curses his father or his mother, he shall surely be put to death; he has cursed his father or his mother, his bloodguiltiness is upon him.
20 He who curses his father or his mother, His lamp will go out in time of darkness.
You shall not curse a deaf man
Jewish tradition has it that this includes anybody with disabilities or any poor person. 3
14 ‘You shall not curse a deaf man, nor place a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall revere your Elohim; I am YHVH.
27 “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
We are to be careful with our words. We can speak curses over our loved ones and over ourselves. We can also with our words bring judgment upon ourselves.
In this article we have looked at the meaning of the words blessing and curse. We have also looked at the blessing and curse from YHVH’s perspective. YHVH uses both blessings and curses to bring us to our knees. The righteous, He blesses and it results in praise and the unrighteous, He brings to repentance and return. YHVH wants us to choose Him and worship Him alone.
We also looked at blessings and curses from the perspective of the believer. There is some instruction for us in Scripture regarding blessing and cursing of others. We are to be careful with our words. Words have immense power, especially when spoken by a believer. We have YHVH’s Spirit in us and with the same Spirit YHVH created the heavens and earth. He spoke and it was so. So when we pronounce a blessing or curse over somebody and invoke YHVH’s name, it will have power if it is according to YHVH’s will.
21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.
In the next article, we will look specifically at how curses spoken by unbelievers and generational curses affects us and what we can do about it.
- All quoted passages are from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995. We have substituted YHVH for LORD, and Y’shua for Jesus
- Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
Tags: blessing, blood of Y'shua, breaking curses, covenant, covenantal faithfulness, Curse, cursing believers, cursing ourselves, disobedience, invoke, oath, obedience, power, prohibitions, repentance, Sabbatical year
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