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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
August 7, 2011
Revised June 4, 2023
The God Who Reveals Mysteries
Please turn in your Bibles to Daniel 2. This morning we will be examining the first part of this chapter and its declaration that God reveals mysteries that cannot be known by man. We will examine the second half about the mystery that God revealed to Nebuchadnezzar through Daniel after I get back from the IFCA Convention. We have guest speakers lined up for the next few weeks including David who is up visiting from Tennessee for the next week.
Daniel 2 is strongly attacked by liberal theologians precisely because they reject the idea that there is a God that can reveal the future before it occurs. The Lord proclaimed in Isaiah 46:9-10, 9 “Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, 10 Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My counsel will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure.’” That is what He does in this chapter. The details are precise enough that liberals claim it must have been written hundreds of years later after the events prophesied had been fulfilled. Their presuppositions blind them to point of the chapter and the evidence that these things happened in the sixth century B.C. See the introductory sermon for more details on that evidence (See: Introduction to Daniel)
The God of the Bible is the Creator of everything and so exists outside of creation. He is not a prisoner of the time-space continuum as are the gods formulated by men. The gods of the Babylonians, as with all pagan gods, were creations of their own superstitions with demons taking advantage of their religious system to gain control over men. Demons are fallen angels and as such are spiritual beings with powers mortal men would consider supernatural. However, since they are created beings they cannot know or control the future. Those are things that only the Creator God can do and the Lord will use that fact to magnify Himself to a pagan king and nation.
The King Dreams – Daniel 2:1-3
The chapter begins by recounting that Nebuchadnezzar had disturbing dreams. Daniel 2:1–3 (LSB) 1 Now in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; and his spirit was troubled, and his sleep left him. 2 Then the king said to call in the magicians, the conjurers, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king. 3 Then the king said to them, “I had a dream, and my spirit is troubled to know the dream.”
The chapter begins noting that these dreams occurred in Nebuchadnezzar’s second year. As I have previously pointed out, in the Babylonian chronology the year a man becomes king is his ascension year and the counting of his years of reign begin the year following. The timing of these dreams would correspond with the third year of Daniel’s training in Babylon as noted in Daniel 1. It would appear from the specific events in this chapter that Daniel is either very near the end of that training or had just recently completed it. (See: The Character of Godly Teens) The chronology would be as follows according Walvoord’s commentary.
May-June 605 B.C. – Babylonians defeat Egyptians at Carchemish
June-August 605 B.C. – Jerusalem falls to Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel is taken captive
September 7, 605 B.C. Nabopolassar dies and Nebuchadnezzar becomes king of Babylon – his year of accession begins as does Daniel’s training in Babylon
Nisan (March-April) 604 B.C. to Nisan 603 B.C. – First year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar and second year of Daniel’s training.
Nisan (March-April) 603 B.C. to Nisan 602 B.C. – Second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar and third year of Daniel’s training. The dreams occur sometime during this year.
Daniel 1:17 notes that he had the ability to understand all kinds of visions and dreams. It is unknown to us whether this ability was manifested prior to the events of Chapter 2 or whether these events are the reason he was noted for this ability.
Notice that Nebuchadnezzar had dreams. Several translations emphasize this with a more literal “dreamed dreams” (KJV, DBY). In a culture in which dreams were considered very important it would be even more disturbing to have multiple reoccurring or similar dreams. Part of the training of the wise men was to interpret dreams. They kept charts on people’s dreams and what happened afterward and used these to make educated guesses at the meaning of the dream. The king was so troubled by the dreams that “his sleep left him.” His anxiety about the dreams gave him insomnia.
He wanted to know the meaning of the dreams, so he called in the various groups that made up the wise men who were his counselors with verse 2 listing four groups that made up the wise men. Magicians comes from a word that refers to a stylus or pen and so may refer to those who write. These then would be the scribes and sacred historians. Conjurers refers to those who were involved in the occultic and demonic practice of necromancy – seances, speaking to the dead – though the word may also be more related to astrology. Babylonian religions were heavily dependent on astrology under the mistaken belief that the position of the stars would determine events on earth. Sorcerers refers to those who use incantations and cast spells. The most curious group are the Chaldeans since the term is most often used for the ethnic group that lived in southern Babylonia and which formed the heart of the Babylonian empire. However, it also referred to a priestly cast in their religious system.
After these wise men assemble before him, Nebuchadnezzar tells them he had a dream about which his spirit is anxious to understand. It would have been his hope that among all these wise men that someone would be able to explain his dream to him. As the story continues we will note that Daniel and his friends are not among these wise men that were gathered before the king. This may indicate that he had not yet completed the final part of his training since 1:19 tells us they entered the king’s personal service after they had completed it and had been questioned by the king.
The King’s Challenge – Daniel 2:4-9
Nebuchadnezzar is anxious to know the meaning of the dream, but it appears he is also aware that they could say whatever they wanted in interpreting the dream and he would not know if they actually knew the meaning of the dream or were just making something up. The king wants to know the meaning of the dream, but he gives them a test they must perform before they give the interpretation.
Daniel 2:4–9 (LSB) 4 Then the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic: “O king, live forever! Say the dream to your servants, and we will declare the interpretation.” 5 The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, “The word from me is firm: if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation, you will be torn limb from limb, and your houses will be made a rubbish heap. 6 “But if you declare the dream and its interpretation, you will receive from me gifts and a reward and great glory; therefore declare to me the dream and its interpretation.”
The Chaldeans speak for the rest of the wise men and ask the king to tell them the dream so they can interpret it. That is way dream interpretation was normally done, but Nebuchadnezzar demands that they tell him the dream before they interpret it. Not only that, being a despotic king who put a low value on the lives of others, he made it clear that if they did not do what he asked they would be killed in a horrible manner. This was not an idle threat for barbaric punishments were well known in the ancient world. Making the house into a dung hill, a reference to the house being used as a public latrine, would dishonor and desecrate the memory of them. On the other hand, if they did tell him the dream and the interpretation they would receive great rewards and honor which was another practice common in the ancient world. This was part of the danger of serving a despotic king. If he likes you and your work you are rewarded well, but if his favor turns against you it could become very, very bad.
Due to the difficulty of translating verse 5 there are some that think the king had forgotten the dream which is why he had made the demand. However, if that is what he meant then the wise men would have known they could have made up anything they wanted and he would not have known the difference, but they were sacred and knew this was an impossible request for them.
7 They answered a second time and said, “Let the king say the dream to his servants, and we will declare the interpretation.” 8 The king answered and said, “I know for certain that you are buying time, inasmuch as you have seen that the word from me is firm, 9 that if you do not make the dream known to me, there is only one law for you. Indeed, you have agreed together to speak lying and corrupt words before me until the time is changed; therefore say the dream to me, that I may know that you can declare to me its interpretation.”
The king’s response to their second request that he tell them the dream is even worse for he reveals that he does not trust them. It would appear that at least a little time had lapsed from the first request to the second since the king accused them of bargaining for more time and of making an agreement with one another to lie and speak corrupt words to him. That could only have happened if they had at least a little time to confer with one another. The only way they could prove themselves to be truthful would be to tell the king both the dream and the interpretation, but they knew they did not have that ability. They know that they are in deep trouble and so they make a third appeal to the king.
The Limitations of the Wise Men – Daniel 2:10-11
Daniel 2:10–11 (LSB) 10 The Chaldeans answered the king and said, “There is not a man on earth who is able to declare the matter for the king, inasmuch as no great king or powerful ruler has ever asked about a matter like this of any magician, conjurer, or Chaldean. 11 “Moreover, the matter which the king asks is difficult, and there is no one else who could declare it to the king except gods, whose dwelling place is not with flesh.”
The Chaldeans again speak for the whole group and point out that no one could do what the king was asking. In addition, they point out that no great king or ruler in the past had ever asked for such a thing of any magician, conjurer or Chaldean. Those are three of the four groups that made up the court counselors, but for some unknown reason the sorcerers were not included in this list. The Chaldeans were attempting to get the king to identify with the great kings and rulers of the past and change his mind to be like them. They finally point out that only a god could do what the king requested, and since the gods do not dwell with mortals this was an impossible request. This was the admission of human impotence that the Lord wanted them to make. This admission would later force them to acknowledge the superiority of the God of Israel.
The King’s Decree – Daniel 2:12-13
Daniel 2:12–13 (LSB) 12 “Because of this the king became indignant and very furious and said for them to destroy all the wise men of Babylon. 13 So the law went forth that the wise men were to be killed; and they sought out Daniel and his friends to kill them.”
The king’s response could not have been worse except for executing them all on the spot. Nebuchadnezzar gives orders that all the wise men will be destroyed, but first they will be gathered together. Daniel and his friends are considered to be among those considered “wise men” because of their training so the guards went looking for them as well.
Daniel’s Request – Daniel 2:14-16
It is Arioch, the captain of the king’s body guard, that finds and informs Daniel of the king’s decree to execute the wise men, but Daniel answers him calmly with wisdom.
Daniel 2:14–16 (LSB) 14 “Then Daniel replied with discretion and discernment to Arioch, the captain of the king’s bodyguard, who had gone forth to kill the wise men of Babylon; 15 he answered and said to Arioch, a powerful official for the king, “For what reason is the law from the king so urgent?” Then Arioch made the matter known to Daniel. 16 So Daniel went in and sought from the king that he would give him time, in order that he might declare the interpretation to the king.”
Remember that Daniel is still a young man at this point probably between the ages of 17 and 21. He remains calm in a situation that would make even most older men anxious. Daniel asks about the reason for the urgency of the decree instead of reason for the decree itself for that is the part that was most unreasonable. To execute men who had not even been given an opportunity to talk with the king much less make an effort to satisfy his demands would be harsh. Arioch then takes the time to explain everything. This in itself indicates Arioch already had regard for Daniel otherwise he would not have bothered himself to answer Daniel’s question.
Daniel is allowed to speak with the king and he makes a simple request for some time so that he could satisfy the king’s demand. Though what Daniel specifically said to the King is not recorded, it was enough to gain the request and Nebuchadnezzar gave him the time. Perhaps the king had calmed down by then and recognized that it was a reasonable request.
Petitioning God – Daniel 2:17-19
Daniel knew what must happen if the request of the king was to be fulfilled. Daniel 2:17–18 (LSB) 17 “Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to his friends, to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 18 so that they might seek compassion from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his friends would not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.”
Prayer was the only means of finding a solution to the dilemma so Daniel gathered his friends together to petition the God of heaven. Their request is for nothing less than a miracle, but it is a request that is in keeping with God’s character. They desired God to be compassionate toward them so they would not be included in the decree to destroy the wise men of Babylon. The only means of preventing that was for God to reveal to one of them the mystery of Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams and their interpretation. I am sure they prayed with great fervency, but they were not panicked. They were putting their future in God’s hands.
While none of us have a dilemma like Daniel, Hannaniah, Azariah and Mishael did, we do have access to the same sovereign God through Christ. Hebrews 4:14-16 points out that Jesus is our high priest who sympathizes with us so that we can “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Each of us can and should place our future in God’s hands just as Daniel and his friends did.
As a footnote, remember that astrology was an important part of their religious system, so using the title “God of heaven” – actually it is plural, “God of heavens” – is specific in contrasting the God of Israel who rules over heaven with the gods of the Babylonian pantheon which were controlled by the heavens.
The God Who Reveals Mysteries – Daniel 2:19-23
God was merciful toward them and granted their request. Daniel 2:19–23 (LSB) 19 Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven; 20 Daniel answered and said, “Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, For wisdom and might belong to Him. 21 “And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men And knowledge to men of understanding. 22 “He reveals the deep and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, And the light dwells with Him. 23 “To You, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, For You have given me wisdom and might; Even now You have made known to me what we sought from You, For You have made known to us the king’s matter.”
A night vision is different from a dream in that a dream occurs while you are asleep and a vision occurs while you are awake. This is a “night vision” indicating Daniel, and probably Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah as well, had remained awake through the night. When either a dream or a vision come from God it is a supernatural revelation from Him to a man. In the case of Nebuchadnezzar, he had the perception of images but without any meaning given to them. In the case of Daniel, it was of both a perception of the images that Nebuchadnezzar had dreamed along with understanding of their meaning.
Daniel’s immediate response is a hymn of praise to the Lord. The form and phrasing parallel the Psalms demonstrating his familiarity with them. He gives voice in praise of the nature and character of God with emphasis on His wisdom and power. God’s power is seen in his control of both time and earthly authority. This control is not the fatalistic determinism the pagans attributed to the stars, but the sovereign hand of the Creator “who changes the times and the epochs.” These are the circumstances of time and the measured points of time. God sets the parameters of time and what occurs in them and changes things to meet His desires. Daniel would have been taught about Joshua’s long day in which the sun stood still (Joshua 10:12-13) and about the shadows on the steps reversing themselves as a sign to Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:9-11). In these events God demonstrated that he could stop and even reverse time in reference to the movements of the heavens.
God’s power over earthly kingdoms is well attested throughout the history of the kings of Judah and Israel. Daniel would have known about those too and that it is God that determined who would be on the throne and lengthening or shortening a king’s reign as He desired. Daniel may have been a captive of Babylon, but God had not changed.
Daniel praised the Lord for His wisdom citing His omniscience in knowing the profound, what is hidden and what is in the darkness. He praised God specifically for extending that wisdom to men in general and to him in particular with the revelation of the dream and its interpretation. Daniel makes it clear in his praise that he received his wisdom and power as gifts from the Lord. Note as well he uses a plural pronoun in reference God’s answering the prayer request. It is “what we requested of Thee,” and adds that the matter was made known to “us” and not just “to me.” Daniel includes his friends.
This is a good example for us to follow. Are you as quick to give praise to God for His character and mercy in answering our prayers as we are to pray in times of stress? That is part of personal worship.
Daniel Informs the King – Daniel 2:24-30
Daniel next goes to Arioch. Daniel 2:24–25 (LSB) 24 Therefore, Daniel went in to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon; he went and said thus to him: “Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon! Bring me before the king, and I will declare the interpretation to the king.” 25 Then Arioch hurriedly brought Daniel before the king and said thus to him: “I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can make the interpretation known to the king!”
The wise men were still under the king’s condemnation to be destroyed and just because the king had given Daniel and his friends additional time does not mean the other wise men were given additional time. Daniel had compassion on them and so he first went to Arioch with the news that he could interpret the dream in order to prevent him from destroying the wise men of Babylon. He then asked Arioch to bring him to the king.
Arioch believed Daniel and so carefully chose his words to give himself at least partial credit by claiming that he found a man that could make the interpretation known to the king. Such is the nature of man of trying to gain undeserved glory for himself which is a contrast to Daniel’s humility. By mentioning that Daniel was from “among the exiles in Judah” he effectively disassociated him from the previous wise men and therefore made a better case for Daniel to be heard.
26 The king answered and said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, “Are you able to make known to me the dream which I have seen and its interpretation?”
Both his Hebrew and Babylonian name are used to identify Daniel. Remember that this section is written in Aramaic so that Gentiles would understand it, and the use of both names identifies this Belteshazzar as Daniel from among the Jewish exiles. The king is very interested in the claim but also clarifies that he is looking for Daniel to make known both the dream and the interpretation. Daniel’s reply is humble in giving all the glory to his God and setting Him apart from the gods of the Babylonian pantheon.
Daniel begins by pointing out and reinforcing the fact that the previous wise men were impotent in the matter. 27 Daniel answered before the king and said, “As for the mystery about which the king is asking, neither wise men, conjurers, magicians, nor diviners are able to declare it to the king.” These various wise men had claimed to have special abilities and powers through either their own wisdom or their occultic or religious practices. The king’s test had proven that their claims were ultimately false. Whatever supernatural powers they gained through demons was limited and so failed the test. Demons cannot read minds otherwise they could have also known Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams and revealed the information to one of their followers.
Daniel specifically points out the source of the revelation and its interpretation. “28 “However, there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the last days. This was your dream and the visions of your head while on your bed. 29 “As for you, O king, while on your bed your thoughts turned to what would happen in the future; and He who reveals mysteries has made known to you what will happen.”
Daniel again specifically separates the true God from the false gods and shows Him to be superior by referring to Him as the “God in the heavens.” The Babylonian wise men were incapable of knowing and interpreting the dreams because the gods they served were impotent since according to their religious system they were also controlled by the heavens. In contrast to these false gods, the true God controls the heavens and can also reveal mysteries. It is the true God that made known to the king while he was in his bed a revelation of what would take place in the future. Then to emphasize the point, Daniel even tells Nebuchadnezzar what preceded his dreams. He had been thinking about what would occur in the future, and God sovereignly chose to reveal to him the mystery of what would take place.
Daniel then demonstrated his own humility and magnified the God in heaven by pointing Him out as the source of the revelation. 30 “But as for me, this mystery has not been revealed to me by any wisdom which is in me more than in any other living man, but for the purpose of making the interpretation known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your heart.”
Daniel does not make any claim of being or having anything special. Contrary to Arioch’s introduction that emphasized Daniel as the source of revelation, Daniel claims to be no more wise than any other man. The revelation had come to Daniel by God’s mercy for the sole purpose of making the interpretation known to the king that he might understand his dreams. This is also a gentle reminder to the king that God was also the source of the king’s dreams. There was nothing special about Nebuchadnezzar in receiving these dreams and visions other than it was simply God’s sovereign choice to do so. The source of Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams and the source of Daniel being able to interpret them was the same. All glory is to go to the God of the heavens and not to man.
We will examine the dream and its interpretation in the future, but for this week I am emphasizing that God is the one who reveals mysteries. Throughout Daniel we will see God exalting Himself in this manner. There are many religions and each of them claim their god or gods to be superior in some way or fashion, but there is only one true God, and that is the God of the Bible, the creator of the Heavens and Earth and the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This is the God that reveals the future before it happens with 100% accuracy and He is the only one that can do so.
This is the God that loved sinful man enough to provide a means of redemption by sending the only begotten son, Jesus Christ, to become a man, live a sinless life, then voluntarily die as the sacrificial, substitutionary payment for sin, rise from the dead on the third day, ascend to heaven with the promise to one day return for those who believe in Him. The God who holds time in His hands and controls the future can be trusted to keep His promises. That includes forgiveness of sin and eternity in heaven for those who place their faith in Jesus.
Those in other religions do not have a God like this and neither do those who claim to be Christians of some sort but who deny the revelation God has given of Himself in the scriptures. Their god or gods are limited, subject to other powers and impotent over the future. The God of Daniel, the God of the Bible, is omniscient, omnipotent and sovereign over the future. What is the God like that you serve? What God do you want to serve?
The God Who Reveals Mysteries – Daniel 2:1-30
Liberals attack Daniel because they reject God’s ability to reveal and control the ____________
God exists __________ of creation and so is not a prisoner of the time-space continuum
The King Dreams – Daniel 2:1-3
The Second Year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign corresponds with the ______________of Daniel’s training
It is unknown whether Daniel’s ability to understand dreams was known _______or because of chapter 2
Nebuchadnezzar had __________- multiple reoccurring or similar dreams which kept him from sleeping
Babylonian ______________were made up of four groups: Magicians, Conjurers, Sorcerers & Chaldeans
Daniel and his friends were _________ among the wise men that came before the king
The King’s Challenge – Daniel 2:4-9
They ask the king to tell them the dream – but he demands they tell him the _____________ & interpret it
Nebuchadnezzar will _______them in a horrible manner if they do not, but richly reward them if they do
Daniel 2:7-9 The king rejects their second request and accuses them of ______and collusion to gain time
The Limitations of the Wise Men – Daniel 2:10-11
They declare _________could fulfill the king’s demand – and no great king had ever made such a request
They point out only ______________ could fulfill the request – and gods do not dwell with mortals
The King’s Decree – Daniel 2:12-13
Nebuchadnezzar decrees all the wise men are to be ______________and sends his guards to gather them.
Daniel’s Request – Daniel 2:14-16
Daniel is young (17-21?), but answers calmly with discretion desiring to know the reason for the ______
Arioch explains everything. Daniel is allowed to speak to the king requesting more ____which is granted
Petitioning God – Daniel 2:17-19
________was the only means of finding a solution and Daniel gathers his friends together to petition God
They request God to be _________________ so that they are not destroyed with the other wise men
The God Who Reveals Mysteries – Daniel 2:19-23
In a night ____________, the Lord reveals to Daniel the king’s dream and its interpretation
Daniel’s immediate response is to ___________ the Lord for His wisdom and power
In contrast to pagan fatalistic determinism – God changes the parameters of _______and what occurs in it
The long day – Joshua 10:12-13. The shadow’s retreat – 2 Kings 20:9-11
God’s power over earthly authority was seen throughout the ____________ of kings of Judah and Israel
God’s wisdom is ________________knowing even the profound, what is hidden and what is in darkness
Daniel is clear that his own wisdom and power were gifts from the _________in answer to their prayers
Daniel Informs the King – Daniel 2:24-30
Daniel tells Arioch first in order to ____________ the lives of the other wise men
Arioch claims ____________ for finding Daniel – pointing out Daniel was not among the other wise men
Verse 27 – Daniel points out and reinforces the fact the previous __________were impotent in the matter
The king’s test had proven them to be ______________ despite claims of supernatural power and ability
Verse 28,29 – Daniel makes it clear that the source of the revelation was the “God of the ____________”
The Babylonian gods were _____________________ the heavens, but the true God controls the heavens
Daniel emphasizes God’s ____________ by also revealing what preceded Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams
Verse 30 – Daniel is ____________ giving all glory to God as the source of the revelation
This is also a gentle reminder that the king is also _________________ being used by God
Only the true God can reveal the future before it happens with__________ accuracy
The God who holds the _________________ in His hands can be trusted to keep all of His promises
Only the God of the Bible is omniscient, omnipotent and sovereign over the ________________
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – List the names of the people mentioned. Discuss with your parents how the ability to control the future makes the God of the Bible is different from the gods of other religions.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. Why do liberal scholars claim Daniel was written in the second century B.C. instead of the sixth century B.C.? What do they reject about God? How can the Second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign also be the third year of Daniel’s training? What distinguishes each of the four groups of wise men listed in Daniel 2:2? The king is anxious to know the meaning of his dream, so what reasons might there be that he refuses to tell them the dream? Could the king have forgotten the dream? Why or why not? What do the wise men say about their own limitations? Why would the king demand their lives if they do not tell him the dream and why doesn’t he trust the wise men? How does Daniel’s response in verse 15 show discretion and discernment? Why would the king grant Daniel more time in view of his earlier response in verses 8-12? What do Daniel and his friends request of God? What are some possible ways that the request could be answered? What is the difference between a night vision and a dream? Daniel blesses God for His wisdom and power – what does Daniel specifically point out as evidences of God’s wisdom and power? Why does Daniel inform Arioch first? How does Daniel’s answer to the king demonstrate the superiority of God over the Babylonian pantheon? Why does Daniel refer to God as the God of the heavens? How does Daniel demonstrate his own humility? What is the nature and character of the God you serve?
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