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Genesis 1:1-2:3; God Creates Our World, Part 1

by Karl Kemp  
7/10/2014 / Bible Studies

I am writing this paper after completing the four-part paper on Genesis chapter 3 and the two-part paper on Genesis 2:9 and the tree of life and the tree of death. It would be a good idea to read those papers first.

I am borrowing much of the content of this paper on Genesis 1:1-2:3 from my paper on Genesis Chapter 1-3 that is on my internet site ( The lengthy Appendix (almost 200 pages) that was part of the original 273 paper is not included on my internet site, but I have included some excerpts from the Appendix in this paper. (The reason I didn't include the Appendix on my internet site is that I had included many lengthy excerpts from others throughout the Appendix; I had received permission to include those lengthy excerpts in the original paper, but not for the internet version of the paper.) I'll list the contents of the lengthy Appendix as we continue. I still have quite a few copies of the original 273 page paper, which I will make available to you for $5 plus postage. You could send me an e-mail from my internet site.

All quotations from the Bible were taken from the New American Standard Bible, 1995 edition, unless I mention otherwise. I was able to use footnotes, bold, italics, small caps, some Hebrew letters, dashes, etc. in the internet version of the paper, but not for this present version that I am putting on several Christian article sites. I frequently make comments in the middle of quotations using brackets [ ] or [[ ]] to make them more obvious. cf., e.g., means compare, for example

EXTENDED NOTES (in the Appendix of the original 273 page paper):

A. Excerpts Dealing with the Gap View of Creation (8 pages)

B. Excerpts Dealing with a Modification, or Two, of the Gap View of Creation (8 pages) (God's original creation out of nothing took place long before Genesis 1:1; Satan fell through pride and led a rebellion against God; God judged that rebellion which led to the chaos, darkness, death, and emptiness pictured in Gen. 1:2.)

C. Ezekiel 28:1-19 (7 pages)

D. The Symbolic Use of the Words "Light," "Darkness," "Night," and "Day" in the Bible (12 pages)

E. A Study of the Hebrew Verb "Badal," To Separate, To Divide, To Distinguish Between, To Set Apart (7 pages)

F. The Use of "Day" and the "Seven Days" in the Creation Account of Genesis 1:1-2:3, Using an Artificial Literary Structure (14 pages)

G. Galileo's Condemnation and the Interpretation of Scripture (10 pages)

H. The Bible and Science (19 pages)

I. When Was Adam Created? In this Extended Note we also consider the question, When was Noah's Flood? It includes "A Discussion Regarding Carbon 14 Radiometric Dating and the Accuracy of this Method" (20 pages)

J. When Was the Universe Created? This Extended Note contains extensive excerpts from Hugh Ross. It also includes excerpts from "The Dynamics of Dating: The Reliability of Radiometric Dating Methods" by Roger C. Wiens (46 pages)

K. Intelligent Design, Not Evolution. This lengthy Extended Note consists almost entirely of excerpts from scholars involved in the Intelligent Design movement (43 pages)


The first three chapters of Genesis are extremely important. They serve as a foundation for the rest of the book of Genesis and the rest of the Bible. These chapters teach us about God's creation of our world, His creation of man (male and female) in His image, the temptation and fall of Eve and then Adam in the garden of Eden with the resultant spiritual death (and the beginning of the process of physical death) and the expulsion from the garden, in which they had enjoyed a life-flowing relationship with God. Because of their fall, all of their offspring were born into spiritual death, outside of the garden (Rom. 5:12-21). However - thanks be to God! - these chapters include the promise of the ultimate salvation of mankind (all believers) through the Lord Jesus Christ, the Seed of the woman (Gen. 3:15), and the ultimate overthrow and removal of Satan and his kingdom of sin, darkness, and death.

Before I started this study, I hadn't spent much time on the details of Genesis 1:1-2:3, but I had nailed down some key items, though not always with complete assurance. I'll list some key issues regarding the interpretation of the first three chapters of the book of Genesis and make several comments.

THE INTERPRETATION OF GENESIS 1:1. I had already become pretty well convinced that the creation account of Gen. 1:1-2:3 starts with the earth already existing. The earth already existed, but it was in the desolate state pictured in Gen. 1:2 when this creation, or you call it a recreation, began. Genesis 1:1 speaks, in summary form, of the creating that takes place throughout the six days of Genesis chapter 1. The first creative act took place in Gen. 1:3, when God said, "Let there be light." Genesis 1:1 can be considered a title for the creation account of Gen. 1:1-2:3. (This viewpoint is discussed under Genesis chapter 1 and in Extended Note B in the Appendix. I am including some excerpts from Extended Note B in this paper.) I believe that God created all things, including matter, out of nothing, but that that creation took place long before Gen. 1:1. Now, after doing this study, I'm solidly convinced that this is the correct interpretation, the interpretation intended by God. This interpretation is fairly common, as I demonstrate in this paper.

THE INTERPETATION OF GENESIS 1:2. I was convinced that the super-desolate state of the earth pictured in Gen. 1:2 had been caused by God's judgment of a rebellion led by Satan that involved the earth after that high-level angelic being (apparently one of the cherubim; cf. Ezek. 28:13-16 [A verse-by-verse study of Ezekiel chapter 28 is included in Extended Note C in the Appendix]) rebelled and fell from his righteous state and became an enemy of God (he became Satan/the devil). This high-level angelic being apparently had authority on the earth (not that he was limited to the earth) before his rebellion and fall; he would have been created, ministered under God, and rebelled and been judged (judged in a preliminary sense; his final judgment is still future) all before Gen. 1:1.

I originally learned this viewpoint regarding Gen. 1:2 as a recently converted Christian through the so-called "gap view" of Gen. 1:1, 2. For one thing, the church I was attending when I became a born-again Christian introduced me to the Scofield Reference Bible (KJV), which was the Bible I used for several years; it teaches the gap view of creation. (The gap view is discussed in Extended Note A in the Appendix. I am including some excerpts from that Extended Note in this paper.) The gap view teaches that Gen. 1:1 refers to God's initial creation of everything, including matter, out of nothing, and that Satan rebelled and was judged by God during a gap (a large gap) of time that existed between Gen. 1:1 and 1:2. I agree with what the gap view teaches regarding Gen. 1:2, but I believe it is far better to interpret Gen. 1:1 the way I suggested above. For one thing, it fits the connection between Gen. 1:1 and 1:2 much better.

THE MORE TRADITIONAL INTERPRETATION OF GENESIS 1:1, 2 has God creating everything, including matter, out of nothing in Gen. 1:1, with Gen. 1:2 picturing the earth in an intermediate state of creation, before God has finished His work of creating. It is as if God had said when He created the earth, "Let the earth come into being in a chaotic, desolate form, that is filled with darkness and death, and with water covering everything [as the earth is pictured in Gen. 1:2]; then I'll finish the job."

One major problem with this more traditional interpretation of Gen. 1:1, 2 is that it doesn't leave any room (after the creation of Gen. 1:1) for the righteous existence of the high-level angelic being who became Satan, or for the rebellion led by him that involved a third of God's angels, or for God's preliminary judgment of that rebellion that led to the totally chaotic and dead state of the earth pictured in Gen. 1:2. These things are extremely important to the unfolding history of the earth and mankind. Furthermore, you really have to strain to even see the creation of the angelic kingdom in Gen. 1:1.

With the more traditional viewpoint, we are totally unprepared for Satan (an evil, fallen being who hates God and man) to come on the scene in Genesis chapter 3, or for the existence of anything evil (not good) in God's created universe. Genesis chapter 1 informs us six times that everything that God created in Genesis chapter 1 was good, and once that it was very good. We need to see that sin, Satan, and "darkness" (using the word "darkness" in a symbolic/spiritual sense) all existed before God's creative (recreative) work that is spoken of throughout Genesis chapter 1 began; they were not part of His creative (recreative) work that is spoken of in Genesis chapter 1. And, as I mentioned, we need to see that the chaotic, desolate, dead, dark state of the earth, with water covering everything, resulted from God's judgment of the rebellion led by Satan before Gen. 1:1.

SYMBOLIC/SPIRITUAL LANGUAGE IN GENESIS CHAPTERS 1-3. I believe there is quite a bit of symbolic/spiritual language in Genesis chapters 1-3 and that it is extremely important to recognize this fact and to incorporate it in our interpretation of these chapters. I have observed, however, that many Christians fail to recognize the symbolic/spiritual language in these chapters.

I believe the interpretation of Genesis chapters 1-3 that recognizes the symbolic/spiritual language is far more accurate. Furthermore, the resultant interpretation ends up being far more significant, far more satisfying, and far more edifying (at least ten times more significant, more satisfying, and more edifying - in my opinion) than the interpretation that puts the emphasis on the scientific details of creation that God supposedly revealed in these chapters (especially in Genesis chapter 1). We will discuss the scientific content of Genesis chapter 1 later in the Introduction.

As a recently converted Christian (in 1964), before I had done much study of these chapters, I saw a strong symbolic/spiritual component for the "darkness" spoken of in Gen. 1:2. ((I had a footnote: It seems clear that literal, natural darkness was included too, but the symbolic component of the darkness is the most important component by far. At least some of the Christian scholars who hold the gap view agree that there is an important symbolic component of the darkness of Gen. 1:2, as do some of the scholars who believe (as I do) that Gen. 1:1 speaks of God's creation starting with the earth in the desolate state pictured in Gen. 1:2. I included a lengthy excerpt from Allen P. Ross ("Creation and Blessing") in Extended Note B in the Appendix; what he says on this topic is the best I have seen. (I am including some excerpts from Extended Note B, including some from Allen P. Ross, in this paper.) )). "Darkness" in the Bible symbolizes sin, Satan and his kingdom, and the consequences of sin, including death and every form of chaos.

After further study I see even more clearly this strong symbolic/spiritual component for the darkness mentioned in Genesis chapter 1, especially in Gen. 1:2. Similarly, there is a strong symbolic component for the "light" of Genesis chapter 1, especially for Gen. 1:3, 4, with light symbolizing God, righteousness, truth, divine order, life (especially spiritual life), and blessings (these good things all come from God). The fact that the sun isn't created until the fourth day, according to this creation account, helps confirm that there is a strong symbolic/spiritual component for the "darkness" and "light" of Gen. 1:2-5.

As part of this study, I looked at the symbolic use of the words "light" and "darkness" throughout the Bible. I found that these words are used in a symbolic sense even more often than I expected. Extended Note D in the Appendix is an eleven-page study titled "The Symbolic Use of the Words 'Light,' 'Darkness,' 'Night,' and 'Day' in the Bible." (I am including some excerpts from that Extended Note in this paper.) As I demonstrate there, more often than not the words light and darkness are used in a symbolic sense in both the Old and New Testaments.

I also spent some profitable time studying the Hebrew verb "badal," which is used five times in Genesis chapter 1. The fact that this particular verb was used in Genesis chapter 1 helps confirm that there is a strong symbolic/spiritual component for the "light" and "darkness" of Genesis chapter 1. Extended Note E in the Appendix is a six-page study titled "A Study of the Hebrew Verb 'Badal,' To Separate, To Divide, To Distinguish Between, To Set Apart." (I am including some excerpts from that Extended Note in this paper.) The most important use of this Hebrew verb in Genesis chapter 1 is found in Gen. 1:4, "God saw that the light was good [[It is quite significant that this creation account doesn't say that the darkness was good. If Gen. 1:2, 4 were speaking of light and darkness in a strictly literal/natural sense, it would be reasonable to call the darkness good, along with the light (I have noticed that some commentators make the point that the darkness is good, along with the light; they are thinking in terms of literal/natural darkness and light), but there is no way that the darkness can be called good when understood in a symbolic/spiritual sense.]]; and GOD SEPARATED ["badal"] THE LIGHT FROM THE DARKNESS [or, we could translate, "GOD DISTINGUISHED BETWEEN THE LIGHT AND THE DARKNESS"]."

It is quite significant, as Extended Note E shows, that "badal" is consistently used of separating (or distinguishing between) things like the holy from the unholy, and the clean from the unclean throughout the Old Testament. This verb was used thirty-six times in the Old Testament, not including the five uses found in Genesis chapter 1; it is never used of a mundane separating of indifferent things in any of those thirty-six uses.

OTHER IMPORTANT SYMBOLIC LANGUAGE IN GENESIS CHAPTERS 1-3. The symbolic/spiritual nature of the two trees in the middle of the garden and of the serpent (who is Satan, not a serpent that Satan spoke through) help confirm the strong symbolic/spiritual component of the light and darkness of Genesis chapter 1 and the fact that Genesis chapters 1-3 have a strong symbolic/spiritual component. God, the light, life (spiritual life and physical/natural life) and the tree of life, and His kingdom of truth, righteousness, peace, order, and blessings all go together; Satan (the serpent), the darkness, death (spiritual death and physical death) and partaking of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good AND EVIL (which can also be called the tree of DEATH), and his kingdom of sin, lies, and (God's) curses all go together.

As a recently converted believer, I understood the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in a symbolic/spiritual sense. After doing this study, I'm even more convinced that this is the correct interpretation. Most commentators do not understand the trees in a symbolic sense (but they at least agree that there is something spiritual/supernatural about the trees; some say the trees are sacramental); they do not see a symbolic/spiritual component for the light and the darkness of Genesis chapter 1; and they do not see the serpent as a symbol for Satan (but they at least agree that Satan spoke through the serpent).

WHAT IT MEANT FOR ADAM AND EVE TO EAT OF THE FORBIDDEN FRUIT OF THE TREE OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL. For Adam and Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good AND EVIL was for them to forsake God and THE GOOD (before their rebellion they knew only GOOD) and to partake of EVIL. They partook of evil by DOING EVIL and by EXPERIENCING THE EVIL CONSEQUENCES that always come with doing evil. (Some of the consequences of sin are immediate; some are future, but they are sure to come to those who don't repent and submit to the Creator, Savior, and Judge of all people.) God had warned that if Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit they would die (Gen. 2:17). Eating of the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good AND EVIL resulted in THE EVIL OF DEATH (with the emphasis on spiritual death, but also including physical death [the enemy of physical death will be abolished at the end of this age]). They died spiritually the day they ate of the forbidden fruit, and the physical death process was initiated.

Significantly, this tree can also be called the TREE OF DEATH; this tree is the evil alternative to the TREE OF LIFE. Adam and Eve didn't have a lot of choices: They would either serve God from the heart in truth (in accordance with His Word) and righteousness (by His grace through faith) or they would forsake Him and His LIFE, with the result being DEATH. Adam and Eve forsook the LIGHT and partook of the DARKNESS (using the words light and darkness in a symbolic/spiritual sense). They forsook God and His life and blessings and partook of death and the other curses that come with sin. They chose the wrong tree! All of us descendants of Adam and Eve must choose whether we are going to choose God or the tree of death.

WHAT IT MEANT/MEANS FOR MAN TO EAT OF THE FRUIT OF THE TREE OF LIFE. (See my paper on Genesis 2:9 for more details.) Let's briefly discuss the tree of life that was located (along with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil) in the middle of the Garden of Eden. God (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit) is the only source of life (spiritual life and physical/natural life) and of everything else that is good. Spiritual life, which centers in a life-flowing relationship with God (by the Spirit), is obviously much more important than physical/natural life. Those who partake of God's spiritual life, even if they temporarily lose their physical life, will forever partake of God's eternal life and blessings and will ultimately receive glorified bodies, bodies designed for the heavenly dimension. I DON'T BELIEVE THERE EVER EXISTED, OR CAN EXIST, A PHYSICAL TREE THAT CAN PROVIDE THE LIFE OF GOD. THERE IS NO SUCH MAGIC TREE OR FRUIT. It could be said, however, that the cross of Christ opens the door for man to receive the life of God.

Adam and Eve continually partook of the life of God ((to the extent that the life of God was available to them at that time [[I had a footnote: The life that Adam and Eve experienced in the garden before the fall was very far beneath what God's people will experience in the eternal glorified age to come. For one thing, they had bodies made of the dust of the earth, bodies designed for a temporary existence in the earthly, physical/natural dimension, not glorified bodies designed for living in the heavenly, fully-glorified dimension (cf. 1 Cor. 15:45-52).]])) as long as they walked right before Him from their hearts in obedience to His Word; the blessings were rather automatic. The only way they could stop partaking of the good fruit of the TREE OF LIFE (the LIFE of God) was for them to rebel against God and partake of the evil forbidden fruit of the TREE OF DEATH (the tree of the knowledge of good AND EVIL).

The last two chapters of the Bible (Revelation chapters 21, 22), which speak of the glory of the eternal state, with the new heaven, new earth, and new Jerusalem, also speak of the TREE(S) OF LIFE. I believe the tree(s) of life spoken of in Gen. 2:9; 3:22, 24; and Rev. 22:4, 14 (and Ezek. 47:7, 12; Rev. 2:7) are symbols for the life of God, especially for His spiritual/eternal life. To partake of the fruit of the tree(s) of life is to partake of the spiritual/eternal life of God. THE TRIUNE GOD IS THE ONLY SOURCE OF LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE.

In Revelation 22:1, 2 we see "a river of the WATER OF LIFE" flowing from the throne of God the Father and God the Son. (The trees are situated on both banks of the river.) It seems clear to me (and this is a widely accepted viewpoint) that this flowing river symbolizes the Spirit of life (the Holy Spirit), who comes to God's people (even now, but in a much fuller sense in the eternal state) from God the Father and God the Son (on the basis of the atoning death of the Son/the Lamb of God). If the "river of the water of life" is symbolic, so are the TREE(S) OF LIFE along the banks of the river that are dependent on the water of the river. It also seems clear to me that the water flowing from the temple of God in Ezek. 47:1-12 that became a river and that had the trees (of life) on both sides of it is to be understood in a symbolic/spiritual sense for the Spirit/life of God. Ezekiel 47:12 says that the trees will bear fruit every month "because their water flows from the sanctuary [the temple where God dwells]."

Throughout the Bible, water is used as a symbol for the Holy Spirit and the life of God. To partake of the fruit of the tree(s) of life, which are alongside the river of the water of life coming from the throne of God the Father and God the Son (in Rev. 22:1, 2), is a symbolic way to speak of partaking of the spiritual/eternal life of God. I believe it means the same thing in Genesis chapters 1-3, but the dimension of the life available to Adam and Eve was small compared with that which will be available to God's people in the eternal, glorified state. To drink of the water that Christ gives believers (John 4:14; 7:39-40, which, as John 7:39, 40 demonstrate, refers to the Holy Spirit) or to partake from the water of "springs of the water of life" (Rev. 7:17) is comparable in meaning with partaking of the fruit of the tree of life.

((I had a three-paragraph footnote: Since I have learned over the years that many Christians have a hard time seeing the symbolic/spiritual nature of the tree(s) of life (and other such symbols), I'll say a little more. By speaking of the symbolic/spiritual nature of the tree(s) of life, we are not at all denying reality; we are speaking of the highest reality, the reality of the dimension of God and His Spirit.

Let's consider PSALM 46:4, 5a (NIV): "There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God [speaking of the literal city of Jerusalem], the holy place where the Most High dwells. (5) God is within her, she will not fall." It is clear that Psalm 46:4 isn't speaking of a literal river of literal water. For one thing, there was/is no such river in Jerusalem. The river speaks in a symbolic/Spiritual sense of God's presence and life ("God is within her") by His Spirit. If the believers of Israel in Old Testament days (who weren't born-again yet and who had experienced far less of the work of the Spirit and the life of God than we believers experience in New Testament days) could understand that there was a symbolic/Spiritual river flowing to God's people then, we should (it seems to me) be able to understand the symbolic/spiritual (but VERY REAL) river flowing to us now, and the much fuller flowing of that river (that is full of glory) in the eternal state, and the symbolic/Spiritual nature of the tree(s) of life of Genesis chapters 2 and 3, Revelation chapters 2 and 22, and Ezekiel chapter 47. We need literal water, but we need God's Spirit and His life infinitely more. Those who dwell in the presence of God find that He provides everything they need.

I'll give another illustration of symbolic/Spiritual language. In John chapter 6 Christ said He was/is the "bread of life. In 6:51 He said, "I am the living bread that came out of heaven; IF ANYONE EATS OF THIS BREAD, HE WILL LIVE FOREVER [my emphasis] (or, we could say, he will partake of eternal life). To eat of this bread is symbolic for partaking of the full salvation provided in Christ Jesus by faith. In John 6:47, right in the middle of this discourse, Jesus said, "HE WHO BELIEVES [HAS FAITH] HAS ETERNAL LIFE." We will speak quite a bit more about symbolic/Spiritual language throughout this paper, always aiming for the balanced truth of what the Bible teaches. (This is the end of the three-paragraph footnote.) ))

THE SERPENT OF GENESIS CHAPTER 3 IS A SYMBOL FOR SATAN. We'll discuss this point in some detail under Genesis chapter 3 (not included in this present paper). Here I'll just point out that Revelation 12:9; 20:2 specifically call Satan "the serpent of old." As I mentioned, most Christian commentators disagree with the idea that the serpent of Genesis chapter 3 is a symbol for Satan; they think that Satan was speaking through a literal serpent.

EVEN THOUGH WE ARE INFORMED THROUGHOUT GENESIS CHAPTER 1 THAT EVERYTHING GOD CREATED WAS GOOD, WE ARE ALSO INFORMED THAT MAN HAD TO SUBDUE/CONQUER THE EARTH. The fact that God informed newly created man that he must "subdue/conquer" the earth (Gen. 1:20) serves as a strong confirmation of the fact that, even though all of God's creative work pictured in Gen. 1:1-2:3 was good, there were some things on the earth that were not good. Behind the scenes, in the spiritual dimension, there was/is an evil kingdom, a kingdom of sin, darkness, and death that is headed up by Satan, a kingdom of rebels that God permits to exist for His purposes for a season before He totally removes that kingdom through judgment. It's important to see that Satan and his kingdom of darkness were not part of God's creative work spoken of in Gen. 1:1-2:3. He was created, fell, and was judged in a preliminary sense before Gen. 1:1.

The primary thing that Adam and Eve needed to subdue/conquer was the all-too-real potential to sin against God and join the devil in his kingdom of rebellion, darkness, and death. ((I had a footnote: Before the fall man hardly needed to subdue/conquer the animal kingdom. Genesis 1:30 (cf. Gen. 2:19, 20; Isa. 11:6-9; 65:25) seems to indicate that the animals, at that time, were no threat to Adam, or even to one another, in that they were vegetarians. And the ground, at that time, did not need to be subdued; it yielded bountiful produce with minimal effort (or less). So too, Adam and Eve had no problems with things like violent weather, droughts, floods, or plagues/sickness before the fall.)) As we know, the encounter of man with Satan in the garden that is reported in Genesis chapter 3 turned out very bad; instead of subduing, Adam and Eve were subdued by sin, darkness, and death. Anyway, God in His mercy and grace didn't let the story end there. His promise of Gen. 3:15 revealed that eventually man (through the ultimate Seed of the woman, the God-man) will totally subdue/conquer Satan and his kingdom of sin, darkness, and death.

THE NATURE OF THE DAYS OF THE SEVEN DAYS OF GENESIS 1:1-2:3. When I started this study, I hadn't formed a strong opinion regarding the nature of the days of creation, but I didn't think they were literal twenty-four hour days. Now I can say that I agree with those who say the seven days constitute an artificial literary framework designed by God to yield, for one thing, an important model for Israel's sabbath at the end of six days of work. Under Gen. 1:5, I list six reasons for not understanding the days to be literal twenty-four hour days. Extended Note F in the Appendix is titled, "The Use of 'Day' and the 'Seven Days' in the Creation Account of Genesis 1:1-2:3, Using an Artificial Literary Structure." I include some excerpts from that Extended Note under Gen. 1:5.

If it is true that the seven days of Gen. 1:1-2:3 constitute an artificial literary framework, there's no basis to argue that the first six days cover a period of one hundred and forty-four hours. I don't believe God intended to reveal how long He took in His recreation of the earth. For the record though, this paper wouldn't change hardly at all if the six days of Genesis chapter 1 covered one hundred and forty-four hours.

We will continue with the Introduction of this paper on Genesis 1:1-2:3 in Part 2.

Copyright by Karl Kemp Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.

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