Damascus Became a Ruinous Heap

DAMASCENE PROPHECIES

Assyrian Besiegers

Isaiah 17:1-3

1The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap. 2The cities of Aroer are forsaken; they shall be for flocks, which shall lie down, and none shall make them afraid. 3And the fortress shall cease from Ephraim, and the kingdom from Damascus, and the remnant of Syria; they shall be as the glory of the children of Israel, saith Jehovah of hosts (ASV, 1901).

This prophecy of Damascus, Syria is titled a burden or in the Hebrew a “massa.” This is a heavy, heavy set of declarations on this city. At the time Isaiah wrote this oracle against Damascus the Northern ten tribes of Israel had allied with Syria called Aram in the Bible. Because Assyria had threatened the Southern Kingdom of Judah God spoke through Isaiah the prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah assuring them that Damascus would become a ruinous heap (Hebrew Mapala) and not a threat. This conquering and despoiling was done by Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, as explained in 2 Kings 16:9 it had been a very ancient city and now was in ruins. This city would be rebuilt and then destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar the Babylonian King described in Jeremiah 49:21. Therefore, this prophecy given to Isaiah was fulfilled in the two invasions of Damascus by Assyria and Babylon both of which destroyed the city and left it in ruins (Mapala).

It is important to see how the Northern kingdom of Israel aligned itself with Damascus. These are some references to what happened to Damascus primarily for Israel (northern 10 tribes) aligning itself with pagan Damascus.

  1. Damascus has become helpless (Jeremiah 49:24).
  2. The king of Assyria took Damascus and exiled its inhabitants (2 Kings 16:9).
  3. Ahaz copied the altar in Damascus (2 Kings 16:10).
  4. Ahaz sacrificed to the gods of Damascus (2 Chronicles 28:23).
  5. I will set fire to the wall of Damascus (Jeremiah 49:27).
  6. The spoil of Damascus and Samaria will be carried away to Assyria (Isaiah 8:4).
  7. Is not Samaria like Damascus? (Isaiah 10:9).
  8. The kingdom will disappear from Damascus (Isaiah 17:3).
  9. I will break the [gate] bar of Damascus (Amos 1:5).
  10. For three transgressions of Damascus and for four (Amos 1:3).
  11. The oracle of the word of the Lord will rest on Damascus (Zechariah 9:1)

From Isaiah 7:1–2. We see that Rezin, king of Aram, northeast of Israel, and Pekah king of Israel (752–732B.C.) had made an alliance. Rezin may have usurped the throne of Aram, and Pekah was a usurper. Rezin was Aram’s last king, and Pekah was Israel’s next-to-last king. After Jeroboam II (793–753) of Israel died, the Northern Kingdom became increasingly weak. Rezin convinced Pekah to join him in a war against the Southern Kingdom of Judah (2 Kings 15:37; 16:5). They threatened to replace Judah’s King Ahaz with a puppet king (Isaiah 7:6). The prospect of such formidable enemies as Aram and Israel caused the people of Judah to be afraid. The house of David (v. 2) refers to King Ahaz who was of that kingly line. Hearing of the Aram- Israel alliance Ahaz was terrified. Ephraim, Israel’s largest tribe, represented in a synecdoche the entire northern nation as is also the case in the Book of Hosea (Hosea 4:17; 5:3, 5, 9–14). This was in the year 734 b.c.Ahaz foolishly thought he could call on the Assyrian King Tiglath-Pileser III (745–727) to come to his aid and attack the Aram-Israel confederacy. What happened though was the king of Assyria took Damascus and exiled its inhabitants (2 Kings 16:9). Then in 722 B.C. He conquered the Northern Kingdom and took them back to Assyria and populated the Northern Kingdom with people from many different areas.

IL Kings 17:24

24And the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Avva, and from Hamath and Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel; and they possessed Samaria, and dwelt in the cities thereof (ASV, 1901).

The inbreeding of these people with the remaining people of the Northern Kingdom of Israel produced the Samaritans which were hated by the Jewish people.

The Arab states and Damascus will all receive a final judgment at the start of the Messianic Kingdom. It is difficult to predict if there will be another invasion of Damascus before the final destination which is a result of their perpetual hatred of Israel as characterized as early as Numbers 20:14-21 and in summary form in Psalm 83:1-8. Some believe that the civil war which started in 2011 in Syria is a fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 17:1, but there is no biblical indication that this is accurate. It is outside sound hermeneutics to look to the news first in order to justify a prophecy in the Bible. We look to the Bible to see what God has said will happen then look to world events to see if they match up exactly as prophesied.

Damascus presently is not in ruin as when the Assyrians and Babylonians destroyed the city. Some might view this prophecy in Isaiah 17:1 as indicative of a type of prophetic fulfillment called the “double reference.” Hermeneutically those instances refer to a near and far term view of a prophecied event such as in Deuteronomy 18 where Moses predicts a prophet who would succeed him. Although Joshua fulfilled the near-term fulfillment, Acts 3:22-23 applies it to Jesus, hence, the near and far view fulfillment. There might be yet a future destruction of Damascus equally ruinous as the Assyrian and Babylonian destructions were, but so far it has not occurred. There is still no biblical reference to a far term reference to this despoiling of Damascus in our time as the Acts 3:22-23 passage refers to the far term fulfillment of Jesus as the object of Moses’ prediction of a prophet to succeed him. Many see the text of Psalm 83:1-8 as the fulfillment of the far term prophecy of Isaiah 17:1 but that is simply an imprecatory Psalm, not a prophecy of an event that will come to pass. Therefore there is no clear indication in the Bible that this will have a far term fulfillment.

God says that in the Messianic Kingdom He will bring peace between Israel and Damascus (Part of Assyria) through a conversion of their peoples to become believers and live with Israel in peace in the Messianic Kingdom.

Isaiah 19:23-25

23In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria; and the Egyptians shall worship with the Assyrians. 24In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth; 25for that Jehovah of hosts hath blessed them, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance (ASV, 1901).

The Kings Highway Ancient International Trade Routes

Verse 23 describes a highway which connects Egypt, Israel and Assyria. In the Messianic Kingdom, when peace will be restored, all borders will be open, and this highway, a symbol of free trade trafficking, will be restored between these Middle Eastern states. The means by which this will occur is conversion (vv. 24–25). Not only will Egypt undergo a conversion experience, but so will the ancient area of Assyria. Assyria will become a blessing in the earth and will receive a blessing from God. The three former enemies will now be spiritually and economically unified. So peace during the Messianic Kingdom will come between Israel and Assyria (part of Syria) by means of conversion. When this happens, there will be economic, political, and religious unity, because they will all worship the same God.

Daniel E. Woodhead

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The Five Witnesses to the Truth of Jesus the Messiah

Introduction

 

At the time of Jesus, the ruling Jews did not believe who He was. Even though He proved to them by many facts and fulfilled prophecies, they nevertheless accused Him of blasphemy as they said He was making Himself out to equal with God (John 5:18). They had a validating procedure in place within the Mosaic Law to determine truth, but unfortunately did not rely on it to certify that He is the Messiah:

Jesus Enters Jerusalem by Benjamin Robert Haydon Cir 1814-1820

John 5:31–47

 

31 If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. 32 There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true. 33 Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth. 34 But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved. 35 He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light. 36 But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me. 37 And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape. 38 And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not. 39 Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. 40 And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. 41 I receive not honour from men. 42 But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. 43 I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. 44 How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. 46 For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. 47 But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words (KJV)?

 

The Jews were given certain methodologies within the Mosaic Law to validate truth. Our legal system is based in a large part on the Mosaic Law.

Pediment on the United States Supreme Court with Moses in the center

There are two basic rules of evidence for which a particular event can be validated. If it can be recreated, such as a scientific experiment we use the results of the experiment. For historical events that cannot be recreated credibleeyewitnessesare used. This is also stated in the Mosaic Law:

 

Numbers 35:30

 

30Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die (KJV).

 

In any case of homicide there needed to be witnesses to the act in order for guilt to be established, and one witness alone was not enough:

 

Deuteronomy 17:6-7

 

6At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death.7The hands of the witnesses shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So, thou shalt put the evil away from among you (KJV).

 

Deuteronomy 19:15 

15One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established (KJV).

 

Moses laid down the principle that more than one witness was necessary to convict a man of a crime. This principle was to act as a safeguard against a false witness who might bring an untruthful charge against a fellow Israelite because of a quarrel, or out of some other impure motive. To insure against a capricious execution, two or three independent witnesses were required. One witness was inadequate because if he lied no one would be able to prove or disprove it. The witnesses were to be the first in the execution of justice. So, if their testimony was later proved false, they in effect would have committed murder and would be liable to execution.

 

The Lord Jesus using the same concept of validating truth through multiple witnesses as the method for eliminating unrepentant sinners from the Church:

 

Matthew 18: 15-17

 

15Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.17And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican (KJV).

 

The Lord had just spoken about offenses in Matthew 18:7-14, and starting in verse 15 He talked about what should be done when known sin occurs. When a brother sins against another, the two of them should discuss the matter. If the matter can be settled at that level, there is no need for it to go any further. But if the sinning brother refuses to listen … two or three witnesses should be taken along for a clear testimony. This was in keeping with Old Testament precedents, as in Deuteronomy 19:15. If the sinning brother still failed to recognize his error, the situation should be told before the entire church. The disciples probably would have understood Jesus to mean the matter should be brought before the Jewish assembly. After the establishment of the church, on the day of Pentecost, these words would have had greater meaning for them. One who refuses to acknowledge his sin is then to be treated as an outsider, such as a pagan or a tax collector. So, the Jews were well aware of the method using witnesses to verify truth. Jesus begins this next session of Scripture with five (5) independent validations of Himself as God the Messiah.

 

The First One is confirming the Work of God the Father in Himself

 

For Jesus seeks to do God’s will during His earthly ministry and does not testify of Himself by Himself. This of course would be circular reasoning, and from a logic standpoint it would be an invalid argument.

 

John 5:30-47

 

 30I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.

 31If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true (KJV).

 

Some would have us believe that you cannot logically use the Bible to validate the Bible. For example, under this line of reasoning one could not logically use one section such as the Old Testament to validate the New Testament. The distinction is that the Bible is not one book. It is a collection of 66 individual books written by 40+ authors over a 1600-year period. It is sewn together in one binding. He asserts that the quality of His judgment on mankind is just because He does it based upon God’s will. God’s will, the Jews knew, was holy and just. So He is attesting to the validation of what He says as believable since He is saying what God has said all along to them through the Old Testament and the Mosaic Law.

The Second One is the Witness of John the Baptist

Baptism of Christ by Guido Reni, Cir. 1622-23

John was prophesied as the forerunner of The Christ (Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 3:1). The Jews knew that a person was coming who would introduce the Messiah when He appeared. They asked John if he was the Christ. John said that he was not the Christ, but that he was the one who was the forerunner. (John 1:15, 23):

 

John 5:33–35

 

 33Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth. 34But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved. 35He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light (KJV).

 

The Third One is the Testimony of His Miracles

 

Feeding of the Five Thousand by Ambrosius Fracken the Elder

Jesus then goes on to present a third witness to validate His testimony of being The Christ. He asked them to see the works that He does (John 10:38; Hebrews 2:4):

 

John 5:36

 

36But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me (KJV).

 

He performed the miracles of healing; and of raising the dead which he alludes to here. He was also the greatest teacher that has ever been on the planet. The Jews did not understand how He knew so much as they considered Him as being “uneducated”.

 

The Fourth One is Jesus declaring that God’s Doctrine is independent of Man.

Artist Unknown from David + Jonathan, inc. http://ubdavid.org/bible/bible.html

In John 7:16-17 Jesus states that God’s doctrine that He teaches is not His alone as a human. If He were simply a man, He would seek His own glory, not God’s. This validation is enhanced in John 5:37-38 where Jesus says that God’s doctrine does not abide in the Jews:

 

John 5:37–38

 

 37And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.38And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not (KJV).

 

They do not know Him personally. If they knew God, they would have realized that God sent Jesus to preach the doctrine of God, and not the doctrine of man. They did not understand this, nor did they want to understand. They did not believe the prophets before Him and they would not believe Him as God. (Matthew 23:31; Luke 11:47; I Thessalonians 2:15).

 

The Fifth One is Jesus asking them to Confirm His claims from Scripture.

He says that Scriptures tell of Him coming and giving them eternal life. He states that they will not turn to Him to get eternal life. He tells them that they will listen to others but not Him. This is because they do not love God and do not know God’s voice. They were claiming to trust in Moses and the Mosaic Law, but Jesus countered that with an admonition that Moses accuses them through the Mosaic Law. Finally, Jesus tells them that Moses spoke of Him in the first five books of the Bible. Here Jesus affirms the validity of those books and who the author is.

 

The Pharisees had devoted their life to studying the Scriptures. Not so much as to what the fundamental plain message was but looking for the minutia and esoteric. Early Church theologian Origen taught that there were three levels of Scripture elucidation:

 

    • The plain message from the text.
    • The application.
    • The hidden message between the lines.

 

This is what the Jews were doing. They were looking for the obscure, which is called letterism. They paid so much attention to the details, they missed the central message of the text:

 

John 5:39–47

 

39 Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. 40 And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. 41 I receive not honour from men. 42 But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. 43 I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. 44 How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. 46 For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. 47 But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words (KJV)?

 

It is interesting that Jesus was declaring to them that in their adherence to group acceptance (v.37), they missed Him and His message. Instead of seeking God and what would bring Glory to Him, they continued to seek acceptance from their peers. This is the same as “group think.” Moses wrote of Christ in Genesis 3:15; Numbers 21:9; 24:17; Deuteronomy 18:15-18. Since they did not believe in Him, they could not possibly believe in Moses either, and their claim to follow the Law was unsubstantiated.

 

Conclusion

 

We too have these five proofs, and we also have Christ’s validation of the Old Testament as truth.

  1. Jesus pointed to “the scriptures.” The only sacred writings that the Jews possessed that foretold the coming of the Messiah were the books of the Old Testament. Here, Jesus validates them as Scripture. He also cited the Old Testament as a true and reliable source of history.
  2. Jesus cites the very first sentence in the Old Testament (Mark 13:19; Revelation 3:14). Jesus confirmed that He created all things (Colossians 1:15-16). The word“beginning” in Revelation 3:14 refers to the active cause or prime source of the creation.
  3. He acknowledged that Adam and Eve were created (Matthew 19:4; Genesis 1:27; 5:2)
  4. Jesus mentioned Adam and Eve’s son Abel in Matthew 23:35. Jesus not only confirmed Abel’s existence, but He referred to his righteousness as well. Also discussed in this verse is the murder of Zechariah, son of Barachias (or Berechiah, as the New King James Version renders it). Undoubtedly, this refers to the prophet of the Old Testament, whose father was Berechiah (Zechariah 1:1).
  5. Jesus cited Noah’s ark and the Flood in Matthew 24:37-39. He also mentioned the account of Sodom and Gomorrah in Luke 17:28-29, 32. Jesus gave personal testimony of the Flood! He corroborated its history, alluded to its causes and reiterated the universal death—except for Noah and his family—that occurred. He also validated the veracity of the Old Testament’s account of Sodom and Gomorrah as recorded in Genesis 19.
  6. Jesus attested to Abraham’s existence. John 8:37. He also recognized Abraham’s son and grandson—Isaac and Jacob in Matthew 8:11.
  7. He referenced the Prophet Moses in John 5:46-47. Jesus was speaking to Jews who wanted to kill Him (verses 16, 18), and He rebuked them because they did not believe what Moses prophesied about Him in the Old Testament Scriptures.
  8. Jesus verified that King David lived in Matthew 12:3. He identified King Solomon Matthew 12: 42. These scriptures prove that Jesus Christ believed and accepted the testimony of the Old Testament as absolutely authoritative! He is the God of the Old Testament and saw all the events chronicled in its writings (1 Corinthians 10:1-4; John 8:58; Exodus 3:14).
  9. The Apostle Paul tells us about the Scriptures in 2 Timothy 3:15-16. Writings are considered Scripture if they are inspired by God or, more correctly, “God-breathed.” When Paul wrote, the only “scriptures” in existence were the books of the Old Testament. The New Testament was not completed. Paul taught that all Scripture is to be used to establish doctrine, correct false beliefs or errant behavior, and instruct and train in righteousness!
  10. Isaiah did prophesy concerning God’s Word in Isaiah 40:8. This was repeated in the New Testa­ment in 1 Peter 1:25. Jesus prophesied regarding His words in Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; and Luke 21:33.

The New Testament refers to the Old Testament about 250 times. We cannot accept the New Testament without recognizing the authority of the Old. The two do not contradict, rather they complete each other. The Bible is one complete book. Remember that Jesus Christ—God in the flesh—was also the God and Spokesman of the Old Testament, although it was the Father who directed what Jesus spoke (John 14:10). And God promised in both the Old and New Testaments that His words would be preserved. That is a divine, unbreakable promise of a God who cannot fail.

 

Daniel E. Woodhead

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The Prophetic Significance of Palm Sunday

Introduction

 

The significance of what we have come to call Palm Sunday cannot be overestimated as a major prophetic event in the Bible. This day occurs a week before the Passover, which was the day our Lord Jesus was crucified. It is the one day that was prophecied in the Scripture that would be fulfilled by the Messiah Himself.

Many times during His ministry the common people sought to declare Him their “king”. He avoided it on all those occasions except on Palm Sunday. After the miracle of feeding the five thousand with a young man’s five loaves and two fishes, many realized that He was the one prophecied in their Jewish Scriptures (our Old Testament) that who would come as their King Messiah:

Feeding of the Five Thousand by Ambrosius Fracken the Elder

John 6:11-15

11 And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. 12 When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. 13 Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten. 14 Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world. 15 When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone (KJV).

Jesus Arrives at The Appointed Time and The People Declare Him King

Where was this arrival prophecied in Scripture?  How did the people know that this was their king, and that this was the day for Him to make His arrival? Jesus knew that His arrival on this single particular day was so important and prophecied in Scripture, that He was not going to let the people make Him their King until the exact time had arrived. He had arranged all things pertaining to His arrival in Jerusalem to be fulfilled exactly on the date when the Scriptures prophecied.

Jesus Enters Jerusalem by Giotto 14th Century

Matthew 21:1-11

1And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, 2 saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. 3 And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them. 4 All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, 5 Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. 6 And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them, 7 and brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon. 8 And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. 9 And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. 10 And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? 11 And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee (KJV).

Matthew writes in verse 4 above that Palm Sunday is prophecied: “All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.” As the text says, they shouted the words of Psalm 118:26: “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.” The word “hosanna” in Hebrew is hoseeah, and means “save us”, or “deliver us”. A worldly king would have arrived on majestic horses, pulling golden chariots adorned with precious decorations of earthly value. This King was not prideful, nor was He of this earth (John 18:36). He created the world, but He was not of it (John 1:10).

The Messiah Will Come and Truly Conquer

In the beginning of the ninth chapter of the book of Zechariah we read a description of Alexander the Great, the Macedonian conqueror. He had come to Jerusalem to conquer it but did not as the priests welcomed him in and showed him their Scriptures prophesying his arrival. After this discussion of Alexander in Zechariah 9:1–8 the next verse, verse 9, is one of the most significant Messianic passages in the entire Bible. (We will examine it more in detail below.) Zechariah goes on to write God’s prophecy about the coming of King Messiah on the earth on the day we call Palm Sunday. This is the day when Jesus was recognized as Messiah the King. Both Jewish and Christian commentaries interpret it this way. Judaism views it as the basis for a single royal messianic appearance, whereas the New Testament and Christianity see it as a prophecy of the triumphal entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem on the Sunday before His crucifixion (Matthew 21:5; John 12:15).

God makes a clear distinction that Jesus appears as a very different conqueror compared to Alexander. The date of this prophecy is approximately 487 B.C., about 519 years before it happened (A.D. 32). While Alexander’s swift and aggressive nature brought some measure of peace to the Jews, it will not be until the Lord Jesus comes for the second time that there will be true peace on earth. The genuine King of Israel has strength that is not dependent on chariots and horses (Psalm 20:7). Jesus is the creator and sustainer of the universe, and He brings salvation not only to Israel, but also to all the nations:

Zechariah 9:9a

9Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy king cometh unto thee.” (ASV, 1901)

The First Advent is heralded with exuberance by the use of words such as “rejoice greatly”, “shout” and “behold”. The phrase “the daughter of Zion” is referring to the entire population that is personified by a single female. It comes from an expression of referring to a city or a country affectionately as “her”, and the designation of Hebrew names for cities have an assigned female gender. The joy expressed here as God Himself writes through Zechariah, declares that He is coming to Jerusalem to fulfill all the prophecies regarding His first coming (Genesis 3:15, 49:10; Isaiah 7:14, 53:3; Deuteronomy 18:15; Daniel 9:26). Consider how comforting this prophecy is in contrast to the fear and trembling that Alexander’s armies created in Israel before he met with the High Priest and they read to him from the book of Daniel. This is THE occasion of immense spiritual significance as the announcement of the long-awaited “Immanuel is made”.  In Isaiah 7:14we read: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (KJV).” “Immanuel” means “God with Us!”

In Zechariah 9:9a, He is given the title of “king.” Jesus would not allow a crowd to declare him “king” after performing a miracle or significant action. He would slip away from the crowds before they could do this.  The Hebrew words for “Messiah the King” are Mashiach Nagid.  In Daniel 9:25, nagid gets translated as “the prince”. When David was crowned in I Samuel 13:14, it is translated as “king”.  Jesus allowed the multitudes to praise Him as their King on the Sunday before His crucifixion (Palm Sunday). The apostle Matthew affirms this as fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9a. Zechariah continues on with the prophecy:

Jesus Enters Jerusalem by Benjamin Robert Haydon Cir 1814-1820

Zechariah 9:9b

9He is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, even upon a colt the foal of an ass.” (ASV, 1901)

Four of His characteristics are listed in this verse that pinpoint the predetermined arrival in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday:

  1. He is “just” or righteous.

In Scripture. “righteousness” is one of the most prominent attributes declared of God. It is synonymous with justice, and its use in the Bible means “straight” or “morally right.” When we say that God is “just” we are saying that God always does what is right consistently, and without partiality or prejudice. These two words are the same in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. God’s actions are always fair and right. This righteousness is an expression of His holiness. He is infinitely pure and always opposed to sin. Since this is His nature, we see that He IS just. It is not a characteristic that He applies to Himself, but it is His way, His manner, or simply the way He is. He consistently acts in accordance with His own character. He cannot be anything different than the way He is. There is no standard of righteousness or justice that can be applied to God as a measurement. He IS the standard. The Hebrew word tsaddeq means “righteous” and is applied to God (Job 10:15, 15:14, 22:3; 34:17; Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 119:137, 129:4).

  1. He Shows Himself as a Savior.

This characteristic of God and His Messiah, as a savior (“having salvation”), is diametrically opposed to Alexander, who was a conqueror. Alexander slaughtered thousands at Damascus, Tyre and Gaza, and then sold thousands more into slavery. The Hebrew word translated as “savior” is nosha. Of the various Hebrew language expressive grammar participles forms, this one is written in the nifal form. This form is categorized as reflexive, which means that something is shown or done by the person who is the object of the action. In this case it is the Messiah showing Himself to be the Savior because He is “having salvation”.

In the Bible, salvation is described in two different ways. One is physical salvation as if being saved from an impending catastrophe. The other is spiritual salvation, and that is what is discussed here in Zechariah 9:9b as coming from the Messiah. He saves because of the substitutionary atonement of His death. His death provided us the means to be connected to God and to be “saved” from the effects of our sins, which is eternal damnation. Eternal damnation is a permanent separation from God since He cannot be in the presence of sin because He is perfectly holy. That is the only punishment a holy and just God must give to those who do not accept the atonement He has provided. This is the “hosanna” from Psalm 118:25 which was shouted by the people recognizing Jesus is the one who saves as He arrived in Jerusalem. In Isaiah 51:6, the Hebrew word for “salvation” is yeshu’ah. In the New Testament the Greek name of Jesus is based upon the Old Testament word for salvation. His name in Greek is Iesous, meaning “Savior.” He was the servant who brought the Lord’s salvation to mankind (Acts 8:26–40). He is Himself that salvation which the apostle Paul proclaims in Romans 10:13.

  1. He is Lowly. 

“Lowly” is translated from the same word as “humble” (Psalm 18:27-28; II Samuel 22:28). Jesus came to the lowest members of the Jewish society. He did not court the governmental powers to gain access to the population. He started out lowly and humble and stayed that way during His First Advent. He did not have position, title, or possessions. He washed the feet of the apostles to demonstrate servanthood to them. He was beaten with a Roman flagellum, which ripped the flesh from His body. They beat Him about the head as they mocked Him.  Finally, Jesus suffered the humiliation of being nailed naked to the cross. The Roman crucifixion was meant to degrade the worst criminals as a deterrent to other criminals so they would not commit crimes against the state. Here the God of the Universe, who created it all, entered a human body to take on the low state of a man and allowed Himself to be humiliated to the point of death on a cross for all mankind. This is what it means to be “lowly”. 

  1. He is riding a colt of a donkey.

This Messianic passage displays our Lord’s prophecy of the manner in which he would display Himself one week prior to His crucifixion. After the time of King David, human kings usually displayed their power and glory by riding on majestic war horses (I Kings 10:25-29; II Kings 9:18-19; Esther 6:8; Jeremiah 22:4). Our Messiah showed his humility by riding a donkey, the ordinary person’s beast of burden. A “colt” is a young donkey (male in this case) and “foal” is another term for a young donkey, which refers to an even younger animal, hence the greater display of humility.

The Timing of The Exact Day of His Arrival

Daniel 9:24–25

24Seventy weeks are decreed upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy. 25Know therefore and discern, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the anointed one, the prince, shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: it shall be built again, with street and moat, even in troublous times (ASV, 1901).

The prophecy starts off with Daniel’s prayers being answered by the angel Gabriel where he says, “Seventy weeks are decreed upon thy people and upon thy holy city.” The Hebrew word translated “weeks” in Hebrew is shavuim (Strongs H7620).  It should be translated as “seven” or as “seventy-sevens.”  Shavuim simply refers to seven of something, much like we refer to a “few” as referring to 3 of something.  Unfortunately, the word shavuim has been mistranslated in our Bibles as “weeks.” Genesis 29:27 also uses this word in describing the length of time that was required for Jacob to wait until he could marry Rachel. He worked for her father Laban for seven years and the text says that he worked for him for one “week” – shavuimShavuim simply means seven of something, and in this context, it is speaking about a shavuim of years, or 70 years which is 7 X 70, or 490 years in total.

Gabriel then is telling Daniel that seventy sevens of years have been “decreed” upon the Israelites. 490 years are “decreed” and fall within the Times of the Gentiles to bring about the final restoration of the Nation Israel.  The purpose of the 490 years is to accomplish six things, 3 are negative and 3 of them are positive:

  1. To Finish the Transgression
  2. To Make an End of Sins
  3. To Make Reconciliation for Iniquity
  4. To Bring in an Age of Righteousness
  5. To Cause a Cessation of Prophecy
  6. To Anoint the Most Holy Place

All these decrees listed in verse twenty–four describe in outline form the purposes of the Great Tribulation and the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom. Verse twenty–five is the focus of our study regarding the appearing of Jesus in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

Gabriel then says to Daniel, “Know therefore and discern, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem.” The “going forth of the commandment” is from first chapter of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1:5-7).  On March 14, 445 B.C., the Persian King, Artaxerxes Longimanus issued a decree and he sends Nehemiah back to rebuild Jerusalem from the Babylonian destruction. The seventy–sevens, which are a total of 490 years, can now be sub–divided into three categories:

  1. The Seven–Sevens or 49 years
  2. The Sixty–Two Sevens or 434 Years
  3. The Last Seven Years (The Tribulation)

The Seven-Sevens or 49 years

For our purposes, numbers 1 and 2 above help us see the date that Messiah the Prince came to Jerusalem. The angel Gabriel said, “Know therefore and discern, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the anointed one, the prince, shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks.” The first sub-division begins with Nehemiah returning to Jerusalem to rebuild the city in very difficult times whose events are recounted in the book of Nehemiah.  It speaks of the time that it took for the rebuilding of the city to be completed as far as they could get it.  It took forty-nine years to finish or one seven. This is seven weeks or seven shavuim.

The Sixty-Two Sevens or 434 years:

The second subdivision immediately begins after the first seven sevens, and there is no break between them.  There is no particular sign for the second sub-division to begin or to start, it just runs right into it. Adding the first seven sevens (49 years) to the next segment of Sixty-Two Sevens (434 years) give us a total of 483 years that will elapse from the decree of Artaxerxes Longimanus to the coming of Messiah the Prince.

The following chart shows a time line that begins on March 14, 445 B.C. when the command was given to rebuild Jerusalem came from Artaxerxes Longimanus.  We see where the first seven-week period of 49 years elapses.  Then segment of 62 “weeks” runs to April 6, 32 A.D.  That is the date Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a colt on what we call Palm Sunday, or His Triumphal Entry.  They were praising Him and singing “Hosanna” saying: “Blessed [be] the King that cometh in the name of the Lord.”  The prophecy is very exact.   If we account for leap years, it works out to be exactly 173,880 days from the decree to return to Jerusalem to the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem the Sunday before His death on the following Friday.

70 Weeks Prophetic Chart

 

 

Daniel E. Woodhead

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The Lord Judges the Nations

Introduction

Ezekiel chapters 25-32 details Divine judgments against nations that have risen up many times against Israel as their adversaries. There are seven people groups singled out, and the text divides them in two groups. The first is a group of four that includes Ammon, Moab, Edom and the Philistines.  The second group is a group of three that includes Tyre, Zidon and Egypt.

Ammon, Moab, Edom and the Philistines are immediate neighbors to Israel. Their presence posed a constant spiritual as well as physical danger to Israel’s relationship to God and seemed to be a persistent frustration of the Divine plan for the Nation Israel. Most Bible teachers and commentators avoid specifying a time as to when these judgments will take place, but all accept that they have not yet occurred. When one sees the entire Bible as one long chronological story, the period of the timing of the judgment is brought into focus.

These eight chapters also seem to provide an answer to the psalmist Asaph’s imprecatory prayer in Psalm eighty-three asking the Lord to terrify them, to cause them to be confused, and to make them perish so that Israel’s adversaries will seek the name of the Lord Jehovah:

Psalm 83:1-8

1O God, keep not thou silence: Hold not thy peace, and be not still, O God. 2For, lo, thine enemies make a tumult; And they that hate thee have lifted up the head. 3They take crafty counsel against thy people, And consult together against thy hidden ones.4They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; That the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance. 5For they have consulted together with one consent; Against thee do they make a covenant: 6The tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites; Moab, and the Hagarenes; 7Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek; Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre: 8Assyria also is joined with them; They have helped the children of Lot. Selah (ASV, 1901).

Some have written that this Psalm teaches that these nations will come against Israel before the Great Tribulation, and prior to the allied invasion described in Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39. As we will see they already have come against Israel. But the case in point is that this Psalm does not describe an invasion of Israel by these nations, just a hatred of Israel.

Since the days of Abraham, there has been a long standing, adversarial relationship between the progeny of Isaac and Ishmael. God promised a covenant to Abraham along with a special child to receive the covenant that would come from his loins. It began in Genesis with the barren Sarah giving Abraham her Egyptian handmaid, Hagar, as a concubine to produce a child for him. That child was Ishmael. Sarah later had a child of her own, Isaac, and he would receive the covenant promise (Genesis 16:12). Isaac had twin sons, Jacob and Esau, and it was his son Jacob who received the covenant, and his twin brother Esau did not. In reaction to this, Esau married into the Ishmaelite family, thereby adding people to the group in conflict with Israel. This animosity has been obvious since the time of Abraham, and it was still there during the Exodus (Numbers 20:14-21), and into more modern history.

The nations listed in Psalm 83 are unified in their desire to annihilate Israel, and they do not want the name Israel to be remembered. The names used are the ancient biblical names, and have modern counterparts as shown in the comparison of the two maps below:

Maps from www.bible.ca/maps

In summary, here are the names from two different historical time periods:

 

Edom      –     Southern Jordan

Ishmaelites –   Father of the Arabs

Moab        –      Central Jordan

Hagarenes –    Egypt

Gebal     –      Lebanon

Ammon   –      Northern Jordan

Amalek    –     The Sinai Peninsula

Philistia   –      The Gaza Strip

Tyre         –     Lebanon

Assyria    –      Iraq and some of Syria

Current History Between Israel and these Nations

In the fall of 1947, the United Nations voted to give Israel sovereignty over the piece of land on the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. Israel declared statehood on May 15, 1948. A coalition of five Arab armies from Egypt, Syria, Transjordan, Lebanon and Iraq immediately invaded Israel.

The stated purpose of this invasion was to “push the Jews into the sea”, in other words, genocide. Assam Pasha, Secretary-General of the Arab League, declared their intentions:

“This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades. What Hitler didn’t finish three years earlier, the Arabs would finish once and for all.”[1]

A Nazi collaborator, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, led the Arabs of the former British Mandate of Palestine (a post-World War I division of Israel). He was charged at the Nuremberg trials before escaping in 1946. Al-Husseini actively supported Hitler’s aim to exterminate the Jews in World War II. Israel prevailed over all the military efforts of these cited nations to destroy them. The Arab nations failed miserably to destroy Israel.

Following the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, in the period leading up to June 1967, tensions increased dangerously. In reaction to the mobilization of Egyptian forces along the Israeli border in the Sinai Peninsula, Israel launched a series of preemptive airstrikes against Egyptian airfields. On May 15, 1967 Nasser ordered a blockade of the Strait of Tiran. This blockade cut off Israel’s southern access to the Red Sea and beyond. By May 31,1967 Egypt had moved 100,000 troops, one thousand tanks, and five hundred heavy guns into the Sinai. By June 4, Arab forces outnumbered Israel three to one as they poised on Israel’s borders. This was Israel’s Six Day War and it was fought on three fronts, against three countries, in three overlapping stages. In the south, Israel engaged and defeated the Egyptians. In the central region, Israel engaged and defeated the Jordanians. In the north, Israel engaged and defeated the Syrians. In each of these theaters, Israel gained significant territory that would serve as its own buffers in future years.

On the morning of June 5,1967, the Israeli Air Force destroyed almost the entire Egyptian Air Force (more than three hundred planes) in less than three hours.  Israel’s armored divisions, under the leadership of General Ariel Sharon, also launched a lightning attack on the same day.

After some initial resistance, Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser ordered the evacuation of the Sinai. Israeli forces rushed westward in pursuit of the Egyptians, inflicted heavy losses, and conquered the Sinai. Nasser later acknowledged that eighty percent of Egypt’s Russian-supplied military equipment had been lost in the Sinai debacle. Finally, at 8:00 p.m. on June 8, Nasser accepted a cease-fire. On June 11, 1967 a ceasefire was signed. Arab casualties were far heavier than those of Israel with fewer than a thousand Israelis killed compared to over 20,000 from the Arab forces. More than eight hundred Egyptian tanks had been destroyed, and thousands of soldiers were taken as prisoners of war. Nasser later acknowledged that eighty percent of Egypt’s Russian-supplied military equipment had been lost in the Sinai debacle. Finally, at 8:00 p.m. on June 8, Nasser accepted a cease-fire.

 

However, there has been no settled peaceful relationship between them. After a third war in 1973, the Arab nations turned to terrorism (known as the Intifada), to attrition, and to “trying” Israel in the world press as a means of combat. God has obviously caused the Israelis to regain their land after being out of it since 586 B.C., for is a total of 2,533 years. As described, He has allowed them to prevail in several large-scale wars in which the nations in Psalm 83 state a desire to exterminate the Jews, but always lose militarily.

 

More Still to Come

These prophecies in Ezekiel chapters 25-32 and in Psalm 83 seem to indicate a Divine, permanent, and severe judgment against those nations.  Other Scriptures indicate a restoration of a relationship of varying sorts between these nations and Israel (Ezekiel 35:6-9; Isaiah 19:18-22; 23-25; Jeremiah 49:28-33; 34-39 etc.). Since there has not been a restoration of relationship between these nations and Israel as of 2018, it is necessary to consider when this might occur on the long chronological timeline of human history as laid out in the Bible.

These judgments have had a partial fulfillment, a past fulfilment, and the complete fulfilment is yet to come. The prophetic Word shows that the nations who have sinned against Jehovah and His people will be judged in “a coming day”, when Israel will be restored and be blest in the Millennial Kingdom. This is evident when we read the future promises to His covenant people Israel in Ezekiel 28:24–26 and 29:21. These unfulfilled promises concerning Israel’s restoration and spiritual prosperity make it clear that these judgments will be end time events, also known as the “latter”, or “last days”.

Only the Biblically illiterate fail to see that we are presently in the “last days.” The “last days” began with World War I. In the Olivet Discourse, Christ used the Jewish idiomatic phrase “nation rising against nation and kingdom against kingdom” to mean a conflict in the total region under discussion. In the Olivet Discourse He was discussing the events pertaining to the entire world surrounding His Second Coming. Matthew records our Lord’s words with respect to the beginning of the end, or as the Bible states the beginning of the “latter days”:

Matthew 24:7-8

 7For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places, 8All these [are] the beginning of sorrows (KJV).

According to all three synoptic Gospel writers, the sign of the end of the age is said to be when “nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom”. This act will be coupled with famines and earth quakes in various places, and Jesus clearly stated that this would be the beginning of travail (“sorrows”). The term “travail” beans “birth pang”. It refers to the series of birth pangs that a woman undergoes before giving birth to a baby. The Jewish prophets also pictured the “last days” as a series of birth pangs before the birth of the Messianic Age, also known as the Millennial Kingdom. The beginning of travail, the first birth pang, and the sign that the end of the age has begun is when “nation rises against, nation and kingdom against kingdom”.

It is important to find out just exactly where and how this idiom is used in the Bible. It is used in at least two passages, and here the second group of three nations located geographically further away from Israel becomes important.  The nation of Egypt, is the subject of this next section from Isaiah. The first passage of “nations against nations” idiom use is about the land of Egypt, and points to a conflict all over the land of Egypt as the nation is involved in a civil war:

Isaiah 19:1-4

1Behold, Jehovah rideth upon a swift cloud, and cometh unto Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall tremble at his presence; and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it. 2And I will stir up the Egyptians against the Egyptians: and they shall fight every one against his brother, and every one against his neighbor; city against city, and kingdom against kingdom. 3And the spirit of Egypt shall fail in the midst of it; and I will destroy the counsel thereof: and they shall seek unto the idols, and to the charmers, and to them that have familiar spirits, and to the wizards. 4And I will give over the Egyptians into the hand of a cruel lord; and a fierce king shall rule over them, saith the Lord, Jehovah of hosts (ASV, 1901, underlining added).

A second passage using an idiom very similar to the previous section is found here:

II Chronicles 15:1-7:

1And the Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded: 2and he went out to meet Asa, and said unto him, Hear ye me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: Jehovah is with you, while ye are with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you. 3Now for a long season Israel was without the true God, and without a teaching priest, and without law: 4but when in their distress they turned unto Jehovah, the God of Israel, and sought him, he was found of them. 5And in those times there was no peace to him that went out, nor to him that came in; but great vexations were upon all the inhabitants of the lands. 6And they were broken in pieces, nation against nation, and city against city; for God did vex them with all adversity. 7But be ye strong and let not your hands be slack; for your work shall be rewarded (ASV, 1901, underlining added).

In this passage the idiom states that the conflict encompasses the entire Middle East. In the Olivet Discourse it is the whole world that is in view. This is clear from Matthew 24: 14; 21; 30 and 31. So, this idiom refers to a worldwide conflict, and this worldwide conflict is the first birth pang, signifying that the end of the age, and that the “last days” have begun.

Interestingly, the Jewish rabbis have used the idiom “nation against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” in various texts outside of the Bible. One Jewish source known as the “Zohar Chadash” states:

“At that time wars shall be stirred up in the world. Nation shall be against nation and city against city; much distress shall be renewed against the enemies of the Israelites.” [2]

Another Jewish source known as the Bereshit Rabbah states:

“If you shall see the kingdoms rising against each other in turn, then give heed and note the footsteps of the Messiah (XLII:4)

The Rabbis clearly taught that a worldwide conflict would signal the coming of the Messiah. Jesus corrected this idea slightly, for He said that when the world war occurs, while it does not signal the coming of the Messiah, it will signal that the end of the age has begun. These “birth pangs” that He talked about are the same as the “footsteps” the rabbis talked about. “The footsteps of the Messiah” had to do with a series of events that led up to the coming of the Messiah.

World War I (1914-1918) was the fulfillment of this particular prophecy for that was the first time the entire world was at war. World War II was a continuation of World War I because it involved the same participants and was fought over the same issues. Both wars had a significant impact on Jewish history. World War I gave impetus to the growth of the Zionist movement, and World War II let to the re-establishment of the Jewish State.

Since World War I, history has entered the “last days” of the Church Age. However, the “last days” are an extended period of time. We do not know when the end of the “last days” will occur. The “last days” are a period that includes the consummation of the Church age and the Great Tribulation. The period of the “last days” up to the beginning of the Great Tribulation is unrevealed in Scripture. The Great Tribulation is seven years long. The sign that the end of the age has begun is the worldwide conflict fulfilled by World War I and World War II.

Therefore, our pinpointing the events of the judgment of the nations surrounding Israel seem to place themselves in the “last days”. Specifically, with the Great Tribulation still in the future, and the Arab nations continuing to be at odds with Israel, it is reasonable to place these judgments at the end of the Great Tribulation when all animosity toward Israel will end. It may also be at the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom when Israel is at peace with all nations, and the Messiah is governing the world from His throne in Jerusalem. This state of the earth after the Great Tribulation is one where wickedness and sin has been defeated (Isaiah 13:9), and the animosity of the nations toward Israel will be over.

Daniel E. Woodhead

[1] Sachar, Howard M.  A History of Israel from the Rise of Zionism to Our Time: 2nd Edition. New York: A Borzoi Book, 1976. Reprint Alfred A. Knoff, Inc.,1996, 333.

[2] Fruchtenbaum, A. G. (2003). The footsteps of the Messiah Rev. ed.,Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries. pp. 626–627.

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