Essay On The Book Of Job Niv

The Book of Job c. Fifth Century B.C.?

(Also rendered as Iyyov and iyyôbh.) Hebrew poetry and prose.

The Book of Job is best known as one of the Poetic Book of the Old Testament of the Bible. While the work has been the subject of theological discussion and teaching since ancient times, it has also inspired extensive exegetical and philosophical commentary by modern secular critics. The story's depiction of the undeserved hardship experienced by a virtuous and pious man has served both as a means of advocating traditional morals and as a spring-board for complex philosophical exchanges regarding the problem of human suffering. Combining elements of folklore, wisdom literature, prophetic literature, poetic drama, tragedy, lament, hymn, diatribe, proverb, and judiciary procedure, The Book of Job defies strict literary classification. Paul Weiss has commented: "The Book of Job is surely one of the very great works of literature of the world. It touches the core of existence; it probes to the root of the problems of good and evil, the destiny of man, the meaning of friendship, the wisdom and goodness of God, and the justification of suffering."

Plot and Major Characters

Critics divide The Book of Job into three sections: a prose prologue (1:1-2:13), a poetic dialogue (3:1-42:6), and a prose epilogue (42:7-17). The prologue provides an idyllic picture of a semi-nomadic sheik named Job who is virtuous, prosperous, and immensely happy. Soon therafter however, a meeting of the celestial court takes place in which God (Yahweh) praises Job. This incites a challenge from the satan (the Hebrew term for the adversary, an antecedent of Satan), who suggests that Job's piety is simply a product of his good fortune. The satan instigates a wager with Yahweh that Job will curse God if he is made to suffer. A chain of calamities befalls Job, and every component of his wealth and security is destroyed, culminating in the death of his children. After Job successfully eschews blasphemous speech and behavior, another test is proposed by the satan, and Job is inflicted with a loathsome skin disease. At the prologue's conclusion, the three friends Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar arrive to comfort job, sitting with him in silence for seven days. Following the prologue is a diverse poetic section incorporating elements of lament, debate, soliloquy, and hymn. Job lashes out against the injustice of his suffering and is answered by each of the three friends, who castigate him for challenging God and suggest that his misfortune must be a punishment for some hidden sin. Job steadfastly rejects their arguments, insisting that he is innocent and pleading for a fair hearing from God. The dialogues are followed by a poem on wisdom and the speeches of Elihu, a younger friend who also intervenes in defense of God. In the final poetic section, called the theophany, God answers job with a series of questions and declarations of omnipotence spoken from a whirlwind, after which Job repents. In the epilogue, Yahweh rebukes Job's friends and restores Job's property and wealth.

Textual History

Considerable discussion and debate surrounds the origin of The Book of Job and the means through which it achieved its final form. Although the Talmud names the prophet Moses as the author of The Book of Job, most scholars consider it to be an anonymous work. The Book of Job is classified as a work of Hebrew literature, but some scholars have pointed to evidence of Arabic influences within the Hebrew text. Archaeological discoveries made during the twentieth century have also led researchers to speculate that the story of Job may have evolved from other cultural traditions, including the wisdom literature of the Edomites, Egyptian Pessimism, and Babylonian Skepticism. According to modern scholars, the chief exegetical question surrounding The Book of Job concerns its literary integrity. Commentators maintain that the prose prologue and epilogue contrast significantly with the poetic dialogue at the book's center, suggesting that the book was written by more than one author. One widely espoused, although inconclusive, theory suggests that the book's prologue and epilogue evolved from an ancient oral folktale, perhaps dating back to the semi-nomads of the second millennium B.C. A later poet or scribe who, some critics believe, lived during the postexilic period of the fifth century B.C. may have been the first to write the Hebrew text in its complete form, adding the poetic dialogue in the center of the traditional story as a means of addressing the problem of evil more closely. Although numerous English translations of The Book of Job have been produced, virtually all are ultimately derived from one of three sources: the Greek Septuagint text, which is a translation of the Hebrew Bible made in the second or third century B.C. for the benefit of Greek-speaking Jews in Egypt; the Hebrew Masoretic text, which was compiled by rabbis in or around the second century B.C. from manuscripts surviving the fall of Jerusalem; and the Latin Vulgate Old Testament, St. Jerome's fourth-century Latin translation of the Hebrew text.

Major Themes

The Book of Job has incited diverse interpretations ranging from explorations of its basic morality to extensive philosophical discussions concerning human suffering and divine justice. Traditional religious teaching has emphasized the patience of Job in the face of suffering, reaffirming the conventional concept that, through divine justice, faith will ultimately be rewarded. The view of suffering as a potentially purifying, and even desirable, experience has also been a subject of discussion surrounding the work, particularly in the writing of such medieval theologians as Pope Gregory I and Thomas Aquinas. Critics approaching the work from a secular perspective, however, have commented that the popular image of Job as an example of faith and patience actually ignores the fact that he is depicted as a rebellious and even blasphemous figure in the central poetic section of work. In modern times particularly, scholars have suggested that the apparent injustice and randomness of God's treatment of Job raise the possibility that Job is in fact faithful without a good reason to be so. Much debate also surrounds the enigmatic relationship between God and Job. When God finally speaks to Job from the whirlwind, he gives no explanation for Job's affliction, but instead offers a poetic description of his own omnipotence, describing the natural wonders of the creation and questioning Job's right to challenge him. Some critics have asserted that God's response fails to address the serious questions raised by Job concerning justice, leaving the reader with an amoral conception of the universe. Others have interpreted God's evasion of Job's questions as a denouncement of an anthropocentric view of the world, asserting that the essential theme of The Book of Job is the human inability to comprehend a deity who functions outside the realm of worldly justice.

Critical Reception

While The Book of Job has been continuously reinterpreted over the centuries, it has traditionally been presented in religious teachings as a morality tale in which Job is upheld as a model of patience, endurance, and humility. During the sixth century, for example, Pope Gregory I emphasized Job's piety in his Moralia in Iob (Morals on the Book of Job), considered an important early example of ecclesiastical writing on the subject of Job. Moses Maimonides, one of the foremost intellectual figures of medieval Judaism, included a section on The Book of Job in his twelfth-century work Dālalat al-hā'rīn (Guide of the Perplexed), portraying Job as an upright and pious man who was flawed by a lack of wisdom, which impeded his capacity to accept the actions of God. Throughout the Middle Ages, the Biblical story of Job was superseded in popularity by a more familiar pseudepigraphal book entitled Testament of Job, considered by such critics as Lawrence Besserman to be the principal example of the "apocryphal tradition" of writings about Job. In the Testament of Job, Job is presented as both a saint and a heroic king of Egypt. During the Reformation, John Calvin presented a series of 159 sermons on The Book of Job in which he emphasized Job's integrity and resistance to the temptation to reject God. Job's exemplary response to misfortune was also praised during the nineteenth century by the theologian and philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. While theologians have traditionally interpreted The Book of Job as a vindication of conventional morality concerning divine justice, secular scholars of the twentieth century have given greater attention to Job's defiance in the middle section of the book, occasionally arguing that the work in fact denounces the notion that human suffering is justifiable. Writers outside the realm of theology, for example Carl Jung, have invoked the book as a forum for examining broad philosophical and psychological questions concerning suffering, evil, and faith outside the context of any specific religion. Widely considered one of the most celebrated books of the Bible, The Book of Job has also been an inspiration for such diverse works of art and literature as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Faust, William Blake's Inventions to the Book of Job, Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, and Archibald MacLeish's J.B.

The Book of Job (; Hebrew: אִיוֹב Iyov) is a book in the Ketuvim ("Writings") section of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh), and the first poetic book in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. Addressing the problem of theodicy – the vindication of the justice of God in the light of humanity's suffering – it is a rich theological work setting out a variety of perspectives. It has been widely and often extravagantly praised for its literary qualities, with Alfred, Lord Tennyson calling it "the greatest poem of ancient and modern times".


The Book of Job consists of a prose prologue and epilogue narrative framing poetic dialogues and monologues. It is common to view the narrative frame as the original core of the book, enlarged later by the poetic dialogues and discourses, and sections of the book such as the Elihu speeches and the wisdom poem of chapter 28 as late insertions, but recent trends have tended to concentrate on the book's underlying editorial unity.

1. Prologue in two scenes, the first on earth, the second in heaven (Job 1–2)

2. Job's opening monologue (Job 3 – seen by some scholars as a bridge between the prologue and the dialogues and by others as the beginning of the dialogues), and three cycles of dialogues between Job and his three friends (Job chapters – the third cycle is not complete, the expected speech of Zophar being replaced by the wisdom poem of chapter 28)

Eliphaz (Job 4–5) and Job's response (Job 6–7)
Bildad (8) and Job (Job 9–10)
Zophar (11) and Job (Job 12–14)
Eliphaz (15) and Job (Job 16–17)
Bildad (18) and Job (Job 19)
Zophar (20) and Job (Job 21)
Eliphaz (22) and Job (Job 23–24)
Bildad (25) and Job (Job 26–27)

3. Three monologues:

  • A Poem to Wisdom (chapter 28, previously read as part of the speech of Job, now regarded by most scholars as a separate interlude in the narrator's voice)
  • Job's closing monologue (chapters 29–31)
  • and Elihu's speeches (chapters 32–37)

4. Two speeches by God (chapters 38:1–40:2 and 40:6–41:34, 42:7–8), with Job's responses

5. Epilogue – Job's restoration (chapters 42:9–17).


Prologue on earth and in heaven[edit]

The prologue on earth shows the righteous Job blessed with wealth and sons and daughters. The scene shifts to heaven, where God asks Satan (ha-satan, literally "the accuser") for his opinion of Job's piety. Satan answers that Job is pious only because God has blessed him; if God were to take away everything that Job had, then he would surely curse God. God gives Satan permission to take Job's wealth and kill all of his children and servants,[9] but Job nonetheless praises God: "Naked I came out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return: the Lord has given, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." God allows Satan to afflict his body with boils. Job sits in ashes, and his wife prompts him to "curse God, and die," but Job answers: "Shall we receive good from God and shall we not receive evil?"

Job's opening monologue and dialogues between Job and his three friends[edit]

Job laments the day of his birth; he would like to die, but even that is denied to him. His three friends Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, console him. The friends do not waver in their belief that Job's suffering is a punishment for sin, for God causes no one to suffer innocently, and they advise him to repent and seek God's mercy. Job responds with scorn: a just God would not treat him so harshly, patience in suffering is impossible, and the Creator should not take his creatures so lightly, to come against them with such force.

Three monologues: Poem to Wisdom, Job's closing monologue, and Elihu's speeches[edit]

The dialogues of Job and his friends are followed by a poem (the "hymn to wisdom") on the inaccessibility of wisdom: "Where is wisdom to be found?" it asks, and concludes that it has been hidden from man (chapter 28). Job contrasts his previous fortune with his present plight, an outcast, mocked and in pain. He protests his innocence, lists the principles he has lived by, and demands that God answer him.Elihu (a character not previously mentioned) intervenes to state that wisdom comes from God, who reveals it through dreams and visions to those who will then declare their knowledge.

Two speeches by God[edit]

God speaks from a whirlwind. His speeches neither explain Job's suffering, nor defend divine justice, nor enter into the courtroom confrontation that Job has demanded, nor respond to his oath of innocence. Instead they contrast Job's weakness with divine wisdom and omnipotence: "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?" Job makes a brief response, but God's monologue resumes, never addressing Job directly. In 42:1–6 Job makes his final response, confessing God's power and his own lack of knowledge "of things beyond me which I did not know". Previously he has only heard, but now his eyes have seen God, and "therefore I retract/ And repent in dust and ashes."


God tells Eliphaz that he and his three friends "have not spoken of me what is right as my servant Job has done". The three (Elihu, the fourth friend introduced in chapter 32 is not mentioned here) are told to make a burnt offering with Job as their intercessor, "for only to him will I show favour". Job is restored to health, riches and family, and lives to see his children to the fourth generation.


Authorship, language, texts[edit]

Rabbinic tradition ascribes the authorship of Job to Moses, but scholars generally agree that it was written between the 7th and 4th centuries BCE, with the 6th century BCE as the most likely period for various reasons. The anonymous author was almost certainly an Israelite, although he has set his story outside Israel, in southern Edom or northern Arabia, and makes allusion to places as far apart as Mesopotamia and Egypt. According to the 6th-century BCE prophet Ezekiel, Job was a man of antiquity renowned for his righteousness, and the book's author has chosen this legendary hero for his parable.

The language of Job stands out for its conservative spelling and for its exceptionally large number of words and forms not found elsewhere in the Bible. The 12th century Jewish scholar Ibn Ezra concluded that the book must have been written in some other language and translated into Hebrew, and many later scholars down to the 20th century looked for an Aramaic, Arabic or Edomite original, but a close analysis suggests that the foreign words and foreign-looking forms are literary affectations designed to lend authenticity to the book's distant setting.

Job exists in a number of forms: the Hebrew Masoretic Text, which underlies many modern Bible translations; the Greek Septuagint made in Egypt in the last centuries BCE; and Aramaic and Hebrew manuscripts found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Job and the wisdom tradition[edit]

Job, Ecclesiastes and the Book of Proverbs belong to the genre of wisdom literature, sharing a perspective that they themselves call the "way of wisdom". Wisdom means both a way of thinking and a body of knowledge gained through such thinking, as well as the ability to apply it to life. It is attainable in part through human effort and in part as a gift from God, but never in its entirety – except by God. The three books share attitudes and assumptions but differ in their conclusions: Proverbs makes confident statements about the world and its workings that are flatly contradicted by Job and Ecclesiastes. Wisdom literature from Sumeria and Babylonia can be dated to the second millennium BCE. Several texts from ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt offer parallels to Job, and while it is impossible to tell whether the author of Job was influenced by any of them, their existence suggests that he was the recipient of a long tradition of reflection on the existence of inexplicable suffering.


Job is an investigation of the problem of divine justice. This problem, known in theology as theodicy, can be rephrased as a question: "Why do the righteous suffer?" The conventional answer in ancient Israel was that God rewards virtue and punishes sin (the principle known as "retributive justice"). This assumes a world in which human choices and actions are morally significant, but experience demonstrates that suffering is frequently unmerited.

The biblical concept of righteousness was rooted in the covenant-making God who had ordered creation for communal well-being, and the righteous were those who invested in the community, showing special concern for the poor and needy (see Job's description of his life in chapter 31). Their antithesis were the wicked, who were selfish and greedy. Satan raises the question of whether there is such a thing as disinterested righteousness: if God rewards righteousness with prosperity, will men not act righteously from selfish motives? He asks God to test this by removing the prosperity of Job, the most righteous of all God's servants.

The book begins with the frame narrative, giving the reader an omniscient "God's eye perspective" which introduces Job as a man of exemplary faith and piety, "blameless and upright", who "fears God" and "shuns evil". God is seen initiating the discussion with Satan and approving Job's suffering, a device which serves three purposes: the usual explanations for suffering, that the sufferer has committed some sin of which he is unaware or that God's actions are inscrutable, are eliminated; it makes clear that it is not Job who is on trial, but God's policy of retribution; and the reader sees that God himself bears responsibility for Job's suffering. The contrast between the frame and the poetic dialogues and monologues, in which Job never learns of the opening scenes in heaven or of the reason for his suffering, creates a sense of contradictory juxtaposition between the divine and human views of Job's suffering.

In the poetic dialogues Job's friends see his suffering and assume he must be guilty, since God is just. Job, knowing he is innocent, concludes that God must be unjust. He retains his piety throughout the story (belying Satan's suspicion that his righteousness is due to the expectation of reward), but makes clear from his first speech that he agrees with his friends that God should and does reward righteousness. Elihu rejects the arguments of both parties: Job is wrong to accuse God of injustice, as God is greater than human beings, and nor are the friends correct; for suffering, far from being a punishment, may "rescue the afflicted from their affliction" and make them more amenable to revelation – literally, "open their ears" (36:15).

Chapter 28, the Hymn to Wisdom, introduces another theme, divine wisdom. The hymn does not place any emphasis on retributive justice, stressing instead the inaccessibility of wisdom. Wisdom cannot be invented or purchased, it says; God alone knows the meaning of the world, and he grants it only to those who live in reverence before him. God possesses wisdom because he grasps the complexities of the world (Job 28:24–26) – a theme which looks forward to God's speech in chapters 38–41 with its repeated refrain "Where were you when...?"

When God finally speaks he neither explains the reason for Job's suffering (revealed to the reader in the prologue in heaven) nor defends his justice. The first speech focuses on his role in maintaining order in the universe: the list of things that God does and Job cannot do demonstrates divine wisdom because order is the heart of wisdom. Job then confesses his lack of wisdom, meaning his lack of understanding of the workings of the cosmos and of the ability to maintain it. The second speech concerns God's role in controlling behemoth and leviathan, sometimes translated as the hippopotamus and crocodile, but more probably representing primeval cosmic creatures, in either case demonstrating God's wisdom and power. Job's reply to God's final speech is longer than his first and more complicated. The usual view is that he admits to being wrong to challenge God and now repents "in dust and ashes" (42:6), but the Hebrew is difficult, and an alternative understanding is that Job says he was wrong to repent and mourn and does not retract any of his arguments. In the concluding part of the frame narrative God restores and increases his prosperity, indicating that the divine policy on retributive justice remains unchanged.

Later interpretation and influence[edit]

History of interpretation[edit]

In the Second Temple period (500 BCE – 70 CE) Job began being transformed into something more patient and steadfast, with his suffering a test of virtue and a vindication of righteousness for the glory of God. The process of "sanctifying" Job began with the Greek Septuagint translation (c. 200 BCE) and was furthered in the Testament of Job (1st century BCE – 1st century CE), which makes him the hero of patience. This reading pays little attention to the Job of the dialogue sections of the book, but it was the tradition taken up by the Epistle of James in the New Testament, which presents Job as one whose patience and endurance should be emulated by believers (James 5:7–11).

Jewish interpretation of Job was initially positive. He was seen as a righteous Gentile who acknowledged God. Very early, however, Christianity began interpreting Job 19:23–29 (verses concerning a "redeemer" whom Job hopes can save him from God) as a prophecy of Christ, although the major view among scholars is that Job's "redeemer" is either an angelic being or God himself. With Job viewed by Christians as a witness to the coming Christ, the predominant Jewish view became "Job the blasphemer", with some rabbis even saying that he was rightly punished by God because he had stood by while Pharaoh massacred the innocent Jewish infants.

Saint Augustine recorded that Job had prophesied the coming of Christ, and Gregory the Great offered him as a model of right living worthy of respect. The medieval Jewish scholar Maimonides declared his story a parable, and the medieval Christian Thomas Aquinas wrote a detailed commentary declaring it true history. In the Reformation Martin Luther explained how Job's confession of sinfulness and worthlessness underlay his saintliness, and John Calvin's Job demonstrated the doctrine of the resurrection and the ultimate certainty of divine justice.

The contemporary movement known as creation theology, an ecological theology valuing the needs of all creation, interprets God's speeches in Job 38–41 to imply that his interests and actions are not exclusively focused on humankind.

Liturgical use[edit]

Jewish liturgy does not use readings from the Book of Job in the manner of the Pentateuch, Prophets, or Five Megillot, although it is quoted at funerals and times of mourning. However, there are some Jews, particularly the Spanish and Portuguese Jews, who do hold public readings of Job on the Tisha B'Av fast (a day of mourning over the destruction of the First and SecondTemples and other tragedies). The cantillation signs for the large poetic section in the middle of the Book of Job differ from those of most of the biblical books, using a system shared with it only by Psalms and Proverbs.

The Eastern Orthodox Church reads from Job and Exodus during Holy Week. Exodus prepares for the understanding of Christ's exodus to his Father, of his fulfillment of the whole history of salvation; Job, the sufferer, is the Old Testament icon of Christ. The Roman Catholic Church reads from Job during Matins in the first two weeks of September and in the Office of the Dead, and in the revised Liturgy of the Hours Job is read during the Eighth and Ninth Weeks in Ordinary Time.[citation needed]

In music, art, literature, and film[edit]

The Book of Job has been deeply influential in Western culture, to such an extent that no list could be more than representative. Musical settings from Job include Orlande de Lassus's 1565 cycle of motets, the Sacrae Lectiones Novem ex Propheta Job, and George Frideric Handel's use of Job 19:25 ("I know that my redeemer liveth") as an aria in his 1741 oratorio Messiah. Modern works based on the book include Ralph Vaughan Williams's Job: A Masque for Dancing, French composer Darius Milhaud's Cantata From Job, and Joseph Stein's Broadway interpretation The Fiddler on the Roof, based on an earlier Yiddish memoir by Sholem Alchem in 1894. Neil Simon wrote God's Favorite which is a modern retelling of the Book of Job. Breughel and Georges de la Tour depicted Job visited by his wife, and William Blake produced an entire cycle of illustrations for the book. Writers Job has inspired or influenced include[original research?]John Milton (Samson Agonistes), Dostoevsky (The Brothers Karamazov), Franz Kafka (The Trial), Carl Jung (Answer to Job), Joseph Roth (Job), and Bernard Malamud. Archibald MacLeish's drama, JB, one of the most prominent uses of the Book of Job in modern literature, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1959. Job's influence can also be seen in the Coen brothers' 2009 film, A Serious Man, which was nominated for two Academy Awards. Terrence Malick's 2011 film The Tree of Life, which won the Palme d'Or, is heavily influenced by the themes of the Book of Job, as the film starts with a quote from the beginning of God's speech to Job. A 2014 Malayalam film called "Iyobinte Pusthakam" tells the story of a man who is losing everything in his life and also has parallels with Dostoevsky's (The Brothers Karamazov). The Russian film Leviathan also draws themes from the Book of Job. The 2015 critically acclaimed novel, The Suffering of Innocents,[58] by Marc Zirogiannis is loosely based on the Book of Job and asks the question, "Why Do the Righteous Suffer?".[59] In 2015 two Ukrainian composers Roman Grygoriv and Illia Razumeiko created opera-requiem IYOV. The premiere of the opera was held on 21 September 2015 on the main stage of the international multidisciplinary festival Gogolfest[60]

In Islam and Middle Eastern folk tradition[edit]

Job (Arabic Ayyub ايوب) is one of the 25 prophets mentioned by name in the Quran, where he is lauded as a steadfast and upright worshiper (Q.38:44). His story has the same basic outline as in the Bible, although the three friends are replaced by his brothers, and his wife stays by his side. In Palestinian folklore Job's place of trial is Al-Joura, a village outside the town of Al Majdal (Ashkelon). It was there that God rewarded him with a Fountain of Youth that removed whatever illnesses he had and restored his youth. Al-Joura was a place of annual festivities (four days in all) when people of many faiths gathered and bathed in a natural spring. In Lebanon the Muwahideen (or Druze) community have a shrine built in the Shouf area that allegedly contains Job's tomb. In Turkey, Job is known as Eyüp, and he is supposed to have lived in Şanlıurfa. There is also a tomb of Job outside the city of Salalah in Oman.

See also[edit]



  • Allen, J. (2008). "Job III: History of Interpretation". In Longman, Tremper; Enns, Peter. Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry & Writings. InterVarsity Press. ISBN 9780830817832. 
  • Brueggemann, Walter (2002). Reverberations of faith: a theological handbook of Old Testament themes. Westminster John Knox. ISBN 9780664222314. 
  • Bullock, C. Hassell (2007). An Introduction to the Old Testament Poetic Books. Moody Publishers. ISBN 9781575674506. 
  • Dell, Katharine J. (2003). "Job". In Dunn, James D. G.; Rogerson, John William. Eerdmans Bible Commentary. Eerdmans. ISBN 9780802837110. 
  • Dell, Katherine J. (1991). The Book of Job as Sceptical Literature. Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 9780899257051. 
  • Farmer, Kathleen A. (1998). "The Wisdom Books". In McKenzie,, Steven L.; Graham, Matt Patrick. The Hebrew Bible Today: An Introduction to Critical Issues. Westminster John Knox Press. ISBN 9780664256524. 
  • Fiddes, Paul (1996). "'
Scroll of the Book of Job, in Hebrew
Anonymous Byzantine illustration.
The pre-incarnate Christ speaks to Job
Carved wooden figure of Job. Probably from Germany, 1750–1850 CE. The Wellcome Collection, London

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