Three of the seven appointed times, are pilgrimage festivals. That means that the celebrant is to go up to Jerusalem for the feast. These three festivals are: the Feast of Unleavened bread, Shavuot and Sukkot. Are we required to follow this commandment to go up to Jerusalem? Why Jerusalem? Is it only for the inhabitants of the land of Israel? Maybe it was solely commanded while the Tabernacle or the Temple was still in use? How are we to understand and apply these commandments in our time?
What exactly is commanded?
14 “Three times a year you shall celebrate a feast to Me. 15 “You shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread; for seven days you are to eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the appointed time in the month Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt. And none shall appear before Me empty-handed. 16 “Also you shall observe the Feast of the Harvest of the first fruits of your labors from what you sow in the field; also the Feast of the Ingathering at the end of the year when you gather in the fruit of your labors from the field. 17 “Three times a year all your males shall appear before YHVH Elohim. 18 “You shall not offer the blood of My sacrifice with leavened bread; nor is the fat of My feast to remain overnight until morning. 19 “You shall bring the choice first fruits of your soil into the house of YHVH your Elohim.
22 “You shall celebrate the Feast of Weeks, that is, the first fruits of the wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the turn of the year. 23 “Three times a year all your males are to appear before YHVH Elohim, the Elohim of Israel. 24 “For I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your borders, and no man shall covet your land when you go up three times a year to appear before YHVH your Elohim.
The exact timing when this commandment was given is important for our study. The timing of these commandments, was before the instructions were given for a tabernacle to be built. That was even before the Levitical priesthood. Where were they to appear if there was no tabernacle or Temple? It does allude to a “house of Elohim.” How are we to interpret this?
The word bayit (בַּיִת, 1004) can mean the following, depending on the context:
- a fixed, established structure made from some kind of material. As a “permanent dwelling place” it is usually distinguished from a tent
- in many passages (especially when the word is joined to the word God) bayit represents a place of worship or “sanctuary”
- can signify rooms and/or wings of a house
- the place where something or someone dwells or rests
- is often used of those who live in a house, i.e., a “household”
- In a few passages bayit means “territory” or “country”: “Set the trumpet to thy mouth. He shall come as an eagle against the house of the Lord …” (Hos. 8:1; 9:15; Jer. 12:7; Zech. 9:8).
Does the phrase “house of YHVH” here refer to the Temple that would only be built many years after this instruction was given? Keep this in mind as we study some more Scriptures. I have copied the full quote out of Vines underneath in the Reference section for more detailed information. These instructions were repeated in Deuteronomy, and here we have some more details. The phrase “in the place which He chooses” is added by YHVH. These instructions were given just before the people entered the land of Canaan. YHVH can now “choose a place” for them to go – so to speak – as they have their own land.
16 “Three times in a year all your males shall appear before YHVH your Elohim in the place which He chooses, at the Feast of Unleavened Bread and at the Feast of Weeks and at the Feast of Booths, and they shall not appear before YHVH empty-handed.
10 Then Moses commanded them, saying, “At the end of every seven years, at the time of the year of remission of debts, at the Feast of Booths, 11 when all Israel comes to appear before YHVH your Elohim at the place which He will choose, you shall read this law in front of all Israel in their hearing.
- it is commanded that all men shall appear before Abba YHVH at these three feasts – the Feast of Unleavened bread, Shavuot and Sukkot- at the place He chooses. We understand the instruction to include the whole family. We explain this in more detail in the next article.
- all Israel is to appear before YHVH at Sukkot, every Sabbatical year for the reading of the Torah.
- you shall not appear empty- handed
Appear before YHVH
1 How lovely are Your dwelling places, O YHVH of hosts! 2 My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of YHVH; My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living Elohim. 3 The bird also has found a house, And the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, Even Your altars, O YHVH of hosts, My King and my Elohim. 4 How blessed are those who dwell in Your house! They are ever praising You.Selah. 5 How blessed is the man whose strength is in You, In whose heart are the highways to Zion! 6 Passing through the valley of Baca they make it a spring; The early rain also covers it with blessings. 7 They go from strength to strength, Every one of them appears before Elohim in Zion. 8 O YHVH Elohim of hosts, hear my prayer; Give ear, O Elohim of Jacob! Selah. 9 Behold our shield, O Elohim, And look upon the face of Your anointed. 10 For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside. I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my Elohim Than dwell in the tents of wickedness. 11 For YHVH Elohim is a sun and shield; YHVH gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. 12 O YHVH of hosts, How blessed is the man who trusts in You!
Ps 84 was written by the sons of Korach. Interesting to note that they refer to dwelling places of YHVH (plural), altars (plural) and courts (plural). I have checked the morphology of each of these words and they do appear in plural in the Hebrew. It is not a translation error. Does YHVH have more than one dwelling place? It would certainly seem so. We shall look at more scriptures later on in this study that confirms this.
It is also important to note how the sons of Korach describe those who demonstrate their faith by going on pilgrimage to appear in Jerusalem (Zion) before YHVH.
The psalmist declared the blessedness (cf. v. 12; i.e., the joyous privileges and great benefits) of them.
On their pilgrimage they were strengthened by YHVH’s blessings. The Valley of Baca (“balsam tree”) was apparently a waterless place that became a place of springs. The rains would cover the arid valley with pools of water, a vivid picture of YHVH’s blessings on the faithful pilgrims.
Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (Ps 84:5–7). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
The place He chooses:
The word place:
5226 מָקֹום (mā∙qôm): n.masc.; ≡ Str 4725; TWOT 1999h—1. LN 80.1–80.4 place, site, i.e., a spatial area of any size (very topographically large to a few square inches), inside or outside
Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
As we can see from the above quote we can see the word place is not specific. It can mean an area of any size, inside or outside.
24 ‘You shall make an altar of earth for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause My name to be remembered, I will come to you and bless you.
This instruction is also given prior to the instructions for the Tabernacle. It is given in the context of sacrifices. Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all build altars; so did many other righteous men of YHVH (Moses (Ex17:15,Ex Ex 20:24), Joshua (Josh 8:30, Josh 9:27), Gideon (Judg 6:24-26), Samson’s father (Judg 13:19-20) Samuel (1 Sam 7:17) and David (2 Sam 24:18-25)). In many cases, these men were instructed by YHVH to build these altars. Jacob was instructed by YHVH to build an altar in Bet El (Gen 35:1). Moses also -before receiving the instructions to build the Tabernacle- was instructed to build an altar (Ex 20:24). Gideon was instructed to tear down the altar of Baal and built an altar to YHVH (Judg 6:26). David was instructed by YHVH via Gad to buy the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite, and to build an altar there (1 Chron 21:18).
Altars were central to worship at these times. Reading Ex 20:24, we see altars as places where YHVH causes His Name to be remembered. We have now determined that these verses do not exclusively refer to the Tabernacle or the Temple. It refers to any “place” YHVH chooses, and it can be more than one. It confirms what we have seen before in Psalm 84.
I have added all the Scriptures that use the phrase “the place YHVH will choose” to determine the context of it. Read through all these verses and determine for yourself. What is implied?
5 “But you shall seek El at the place which YHVH your Elohim will choose from all your tribes, to establish His name there for His dwelling, and there you shall come. 6 “There you shall bring your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the contribution of your hand, your votive offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock. 7 “There also you and your households shall eat before YHVH your Elohim, and rejoice in all your undertakings in which YHVH your Elohim has blessed you. 8 “You shall not do at all what we are doing here today, every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes;
11 then it shall come about that the place in which YHVH your Elohim will choose for His name to dwell, there you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution of your hand, and all your choice votive offerings which you will vow to YHVH.
23 “You shall eat in the presence of YHVH your Elohim, at the place where He chooses to establish His name, the tithe of your grain, your new wine, your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and your flock, so that you may learn to fear YHVH your Elohim always. 24 “If the distance is so great for you that you are not able to bring the tithe, since the place where YHVH your Elohim chooses to set His name is too far away from you when YHVH your Elohim blesses you, 25 then you shall exchange it for money, and bind the money in your hand and go to the place which YHVH your Elohim chooses. 26 “You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of YHVH your Elohim and rejoice, you and your household. 27 “Also you shall not neglect the Levite who is in your town, for he has no portion or inheritance among you.
2 “You shall sacrifice the Passover to YHVH your Elohim from the flock and the herd, in the place where YHVH chooses to establish His name.
6 but at the place where YHVH your Elohim chooses to establish His name, you shall sacrifice the Passover in the evening at sunset, at the time that you came out of Egypt.
11 and you shall rejoice before YHVH your Elohim, you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servants and the Levite who is in your town, and the stranger and the orphan and the widow who are in your midst, in the place where YHVH your Elohim chooses to establish His name.
16 “Three times in a year all your males shall appear before YHVH your Elohim in the place which He chooses, at the Feast of Unleavened Bread and at the Feast of Weeks and at the Feast of Booths, and they shall not appear before YHVH empty-handed.
2 that you shall take some of the first of all the produce of the ground which you bring in from your land that YHVH your Elohim gives you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place where YHVH your Elohim chooses to establish His name.
11 when all Israel comes to appear before YHVH your Elohim at the place which He will choose, you shall read this law in front of all Israel in their hearing. 12 “Assemble the people, the men and the women and children and the alien who is in your town, so that they may hear and learn and fear YHVH your Elohim, and be careful to observe all the words of this law.
All the above scriptures are, in our opinion, in the context of the sacrificial system. Where were these sacrifices done? We have determined that sacrifices were not exclusively done in the Tabernacle.
1 Chronicles 22:1
1 Then David said, “This is the house of YHVH Elohim, and this is the altar of burnt offering for Israel.”
This is the altar that King David built on YHVH’s instruction after buying the threshing floor of Ornan. Can we assume that all sacrifices thereafter took place here? No, we can’t because, the Tabernacle was still in Gibeon, and we know the service was continued there (1 Chron 21:26-30; 1 Kin 3:4).
The Temple was built on this threshing floor by King Solomon. We read of some other altars after this, which was, in my opinion, not instructed or approved by YHVH. Jeroboam built an altar in Bet-El to protect his Kingdom (1 Kin 12:32). This altar was destroyed by YHVH (1 Kin 13:5). King Ahaz erected an altar for himself in the Temple according to the plan of the Assyrian altar in Damascus(2 Kin 16:10). He also made for himself more altars all over Jerusalem (2 Chr 28:24).Manasseh built altars for Baal in the courts of the Temple (2 Kin 21:4). These altars were all destroyed. I have included it in our study just for interest’s sake. The last “kosher” altar built was the altar for the Temple.
We can now end the study here and conclude that the Temple is a prerequisite for going up to Jerusalem for these feasts . However, there are some more scriptures to look at. These are also about the place of YHVH’s choosing. The only difference is that here it points to Jerusalem.
1 Kings 11:13
13 “However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of My servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen.”
1 Kings 11:32
32 (but he will have one tribe, for the sake of My servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen from all the tribes of Israel),
1 Kings 11:36
36 ‘But to his son I will give one tribe, that My servant David may have a lamp always before Me in Jerusalem, the city where I have chosen for Myself to put My name.
29 “For behold, I am beginning to work calamity in this city which is called by My name, and shall you be completely free from punishment? You will not be free from punishment; for I am summoning a sword against all the inhabitants of the earth,” declares YHVH of hosts.’
18 Behold, I and the children whom YHVH has given me are for signs and wonders in Israel from YHVH of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion.
2 Chronicles 6:6
6 but I have chosen Jerusalem that My name might be there, and I have chosen David to be over My people Israel.’
13 For Yahovah has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His habitation. 14 “This is My resting place forever; Here I will dwell, for I have desired it.
YHVH has chosen Jerusalem as His resting place forever (Ps 132:14; Ps 68:15). Just as He has chosen Israel to be His people forever. Nothing will change that. Israel is His firstborn son.
The Messianic Kingdom
There is a prophecy in the book of Ezekiel where a Temple is described as well as an altar for sacrifices. This will once again be in Jerusalem.
We have an event prophesied in Zechariah in the context of the feast of Sukkot. This states that whoever will not go up to Jerusalem, will not be blessed with rain.
16 Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, YHVH of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths. 17 And it will be that whichever of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, YHVH of hosts, there will be no rain on them. 18 If the family of Egypt does not go up or enter, then no rain will fall on them; it will be the plague with which YHVH smites the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths. 19 This will be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths.
In Joel, we also have a reference that confirms that Zion/Jerusalem will be YHVH’s dwelling (Joel 3:17)
What would be the purpose of going up to Jerusalem?
Some say the reason for the pilgrimage to Jerusalem is because of the sacrifices. That is one reason, but, why would it only be for these three feasts? There are more commanded feasts: Yom Kippurim, Yom T’ruah, Rosh Chodesh and Shabbat? These feasts also have sacrifices associated with them. There must be more significance to this…
What else do these three feasts have in common? We know for certain that both Shavuot and Sukkot are feasts of ingathering. There is also a first fruit offering during the Feast of Unleavened bread (Lev 23:10-11).
In each of these three feasts we have the presentation of first fruits and the sacrifices. We are commanded to rejoice before YHVH. These feasts are feasts of thanksgiving to YHVH, to worship Him, present first fruits to Him and to enjoy the second tithe with your family before Him.
We know that there are both physical and spiritual reasons for every commandment.
Our personal experience
I would like to tell you from personal experience what it is like to be in Jerusalem during the feasts.
We decided this year to be in Israel for Pesach. It was going to be “just a holiday.” We had been saying, “next year in Jerusalem” at the end of every Pesach Seder for a couple of years, without really thinking about it. This year we decided to go to Jerusalem for Pesach. We wanted to experience the feast in Jerusalem. We rented a wonderful apartment in the Jewish quarter – that in itself was a miracle because I booked it on very short notice. Pesach is a very busy time in Jerusalem.
Even while travelling there, we were blessed to meet a fellow believer in Rome, also on his way to Jerusalem. That was the first of many Divine appointments. We arrived at Ben Gurion airport, and it felt like coming home. I couldn’t believe we were actually in Israel. It was so overwhelming, but in a good way.
We arrived in Jerusalem early Friday morning. The lady we rented the apartment from was very helpful and kind. She even came to fetch us on Shabbat to go with her and her grandchildren to the park. The children were playing, and we got to know each other. Another Divine appointment, she is such a wise and amazing person, and we had a lovely day.
We spend 12 wonderful days in Jerusalem, and every day was “a Jerusalem day.” We met many interesting people including two other like-minded families who became dear friends. Where else in the world would you go for a holiday and firstly, feel like coming home and secondly meet all your “family?”
We went from Jerusalem to the Galilee for just over a week. It was so incredible. You see the Scriptures come to life in front of your eyes. Every time, we got to a familiar place; we looked up the Scriptures to tell the children what happened there. We even went for a Mikvah in the Jordan. What an experience! We learned so much in such a short time.
Experiencing Pesach in Jerusalem was indescribable. The spiritual experience has been just as wonderful. Somebody once told me that if you are in Jerusalem, it is like having an open heaven. Your prayers are answered almost immediately. We experienced that!
We returned home after three very busy weeks with aching hearts, wanting to go back as soon as possible.
We returned to Israel for Sukkot, this time with our tent. We camped on the roof of the Petra Hostel near the Jaffa gate. That was our temporary dwelling. We had a magnificent view of the old city of Jerusalem. An unforgettable, yet challenging experience. We were blessed with refreshing cold showers most mornings and the hustle and bustle that never stops.
There were quite a few families camping there, including some of our friends whom we met at Pesach. There were also people from all over the world who came to Jerusalem for the feast. Every day was once again “a Jerusalem day”!
One very significant event was our walk on the walls of Jerusalem with Bart and Joke Repko. They are watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem. I have learned so much from them about spiritual authority and about our Father’s heart. They walk on the walls of Jerusalem every day and proclaim YHVH’s promises over His people Israel. They do a very important job and we can glean much from them.
We met many, many more interesting people whom we hope to see again when we – YHVH willing- return for the next feast. We learned even more than the first time and saw other parts of beautiful Israel. What a blessing!
I am telling you this, to share the blessing we experienced with you. Going to Jerusalem has given us a depth of understanding that we would otherwise not have, on a physical and spiritual level.
How YHVH provides for us
YHVH, in His wisdom also provided a way for us to finance it.
22 “You shall surely tithe all the produce from what you sow, which comes out of the field every year. 23 “You shall eat in the presence of YHVH your Elohim, at the place where He chooses to establish His name, the tithe of your grain, your new wine, your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and your flock, so that you may learn to fear YHVH your Elohim always. 24 “If the distance is so great for you that you are not able to bring the tithe, since the place where YHVH your Elohim chooses to set His name is too far away from you when YHVH your Elohim blesses you, 25 then you shall exchange it for money, and bind the money in your hand and go to the place which YHVH your Elohim chooses. 26 “You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of YHVH your Elohim and rejoice, you and your household.
Having said this, we know that it would not be financially possible for everybody to go to Jerusalem three times a year. Especially if you live in another country. We have discussed this also in a previous post “when you come into the land.” We must each do according to our conviction and ability.
What have we learned from this study?
We have determined by this study that YHVH can choose more than one place, even simultaneously. An example is the altar on the threshing floor of Ornan while the Tabernacle was at Gibeon (1 Chron 21:26-30).
We have seen that He had previously chosen various altars in different places, the tabernacle and later on the Temple. This said, we must remember that He calls Jerusalem, His resting place FOREVER.
We have also learned from scripture that the purpose of this pilgrimage is not clear. Some people will only see it from a sacrificial or Temple perspective and conclude from that, that it is not to be followed.
We have written another article focussing on the physical and spiritual purpose of going up to Jerusalem. We also studied what Y’shua, His disciples and Paul did and taught. You can read it here: Going up to Jerusalem
This last quote is from one of my children’s books. I was reading the book to them while doing this study and thought it very appropriate.
“How many of us think that we know the value of keeping of a commandment or a sin? Are there some commandments that you do with great zeal, while others you just simply ignore? Are there some sins that you are afraid to do, while others don’t even faze you at all?
If we realize that we are not experts when it comes to determining the value of a commandment or a sin, we would undoubtedly make every effort not to take any of Abba YHVH’s commandments lightly. With this thought in mind, let us all strive to be more stringent in doing more commandments and fewer sins.
Yitzy Erps, Tell me a tale 2, Mesorah Press, ISBN-1–1-4226-0143-9
bayit (בַּיִת, 1004), “house or building; home; household; land.” The noun has cognates in most other Semitic languages including biblical Aramaic. Bayit appears about 2,048 times in biblical Hebrew (44 times in Aramaic) and in all periods.
First, this noun denotes a fixed, established structure made from some kind of material. As a “permanent dwelling place” it is usually distinguished from a tent (2 Sam. 16:21, cf. v. 22). This word can even be applied to a one-room dwelling: “And he [Lot] said [to the two angels], Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house …” (Gen. 19:2). Bayit is also distinguished from temporary booths or huts: “And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built him a house, and made booths for his cattle …” (Gen. 33:17). In Ps. 132:3 the word means “dwelling-living-place” and is used in direct conjunction with “tent” (literally, “tent of my house”): “Surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my house, nor go up into my bed.” A similar usage appears in 1 Chron. 9:23 (literally, “the tent house”): “So they and their children had the oversight of the gates of the house of the Lord, namely, the house of the tabernacle, by wards.”
Second, in many passages (especially when the word is joined to the word God) bayit represents a place of worship or “sanctuary”: “The first of the first fruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of the Lord thy God” (Exod. 23:19). Elsewhere this noun signifies God’s temple in Jerusalem: “And against the wall of the house he built chambers round about, against the walls of the house round about, both of the temple and of the oracle …” (1 Kings 6:5). Sometimes the word has this meaning although it is not further defined (cf. Ezek. 41:7).
Third, bayit can signify rooms and/or wings of a house: “And let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom, that they may gather together all the fair young virgins unto Shushan the palace, to the [harem] (literally, to the house of the women; Esth. 2:3).…” In this connection bayit can also represent the inside of a building or some other structure as opposed to the outside: “Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch” (Gen. 6:14—the first biblical occurrence).
Fourth, bayit sometimes refers to the place where something or someone dwells or rests. So the underworld (Sheol) is termed a “home”: “If I wait, the grave is mine house: I have made my bed in the darkness” (Job 17:13). An “eternal home” is one’s grave: “… Man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets” (Eccl. 12:5). “House” can also mean “place” when used with “grave,” as in Neh. 2:3: “Let the king live for ever: why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ sepulchers.…” Bayit means a receptacle (NASB, “box”) in Isa. 3:20. In 1 Kings 18:32 the “house of two seeds” is a container for seed: “And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain [literally, “a house of”] two measures of seed.” Houses for bars are supports: “And thou shalt overlay the boards with gold, and make their rings of gold for places [literally, “houses”] for the bars” (Exod. 26:29). Similarly, see “the places [house] of the two paths,” a crossing of two paths, in Prov. 8:2. The steppe is termed the “house of beasts”: “… whose house I have made the wilderness, and the barren land his dwellings [house of beasts]” (Job 39:6).
Fifth, bayit is often used of those who live in a house, i.e., a “household”: “Come thou and all thy house into the ark …” (Gen. 7:1). In passages such as Josh. 7:14 this word means “family”: “… And it shall be, that the tribe which the Lord taketh shall come according to the families thereof; and the family which the Lord shall take shall come by households [literally, by house or by those who live in a single dwelling].…” In a similar nuance this noun means “descendants”: “And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi” (Exod. 2:1). This word can be used of one’s extended family and even of everyone who lives in a given area: “And the men of Judah came, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah” (2 Sam. 2:4). Gen. 50:4, however, uses bayit in the sense of “a royal court” or all the people in a king’s court: “And when the days of his mourning were past, Joseph spake unto the house of Pharaoh.…” The ideas “royal court” and “descendant” are joined in 1 Sam. 20:16: “So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David.…”
In a few passages bayit means “territory” or “country”: “Set the trumpet to thy mouth. He shall come as an eagle against the house of the Lord …” (Hos. 8:1; 9:15; Jer. 12:7; Zech. 9:8).
Vine, W. E., Unger, M. F., & White, W. (1996). Vol. 1: Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (117–118). Nashville, TN: T. Nelson.
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