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I’ve always quoted this verse when evangelizing to people (in the past), with reference to man having a spirit. I assumed this scripture was a direct reference to the biblical implications of an immortal spirit. Given other passages apart from Job 32:8, I am convinced of an immortal spirit, but can anyone help me interpret this? Also, what is the nature or substance of “spirit” here? Or does spirit have nothing to do with the “traditional concept of immortality of the spirit”?

“But there is a spirit in man, And the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding.” ‭‭Job‬ ‭32:8‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

“Truly, it is a spirit in a human being, and the breath of Shaddai teaches them.” ‭‭Job‬ ‭32:8‬ ‭LEB

“But it is a spirit in people, the breath of the Almighty, that makes them understand.” ‭‭Job‬ ‭32:8‬ ‭NET

“But it is a spirit that is in mankind, And the breath of the Almighty gives them understanding.” ‭‭Job‬ ‭32:8‬ ‭NASB2020‬‬

(Multiple translations provided for clarity)

‬‬ EDIT: What is the spirit in reference to since it is not fleshly in nature?
I can also understand it’s possible that nothing of an eternal substance can be exegeted from this verse, yet, what do we make of “spirit” in this context?

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  • I'm not sure how exactly this scripture proves the immortal soul doctrine. The immortal soul doctrine asserts that one has a conscious soul that lives on in a conscious state after death. (1) Souls are not mentioned anywhere. Only spirits are. (2) Consciousness is not mentioned anywhere. (3) Death is not mentioned anywhere. I'm flummoxed as to how this is a proof text for the immortal soul doctrine when nowhere is the subject of souls, consciousness, or death even slightly alluded to.
    – Rajesh
    Jan 20 at 19:49
  • Spirit= Spirit. Breath of the Almighty=spirit..... Soul is not in that scripture
    – Bagpipes
    Jan 20 at 19:59
  • Made some edits to the main body about assumed implications of immortality since a spirit is within a man, the assumption on my part has to do with the immaterial being of a human, since spirit is not “flesh”.
    – Cork88
    Jan 20 at 20:09
  • I hope i understand what you are asking, " What is the spirit in reference to since it is not fleshly in nature"? This verse is "all Spirit". nothing to do with the "Soul".. or "flesh". Have you more info to give? I feel you have.
    – Bagpipes
    Jan 20 at 20:23
  • 1
    Yes probably wise to do that, or the question may be closed. Yes i see you have changed the title.+1
    – Bagpipes
    Jan 20 at 20:59

1 Answer 1

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As in English and Greek, the word "spirit" has a very large range of meanings as the entry in BDB (below) shows. One of the very common meanings is essentially and attitude or the mind, or, "emotion". This includes, anger, courage, impatience, passion, sorrow, desire, or just the seat of mental acts.

In English we often talk about a gentle and quite spirit, or a selfish spirit or an unteachable spirit, all referring to one's mental disposition.

In Job 32:8 we read of the spirit that is teachable. Humility is essential for learning - arrogance and learning are incompatible. It is only when we sense our need can the Spirit of God be imparted for us to learn. There is a similar idea in John 16:13, 14.

Here רוּחַ "spirit" and נְשָׁמָה "breath" are used in parallel, the first meaning the the learning spirit of man and the second the teaching breath of God. Note the comments of Barnes:

But there is a spirit in man - This evidently refers to a spirit imparted from above; a spirit from the Almighty. The parallelism seems to require this, for it responds to the phrase "the inspiration of the Almighty" in the other hemistich. The Hebrew expression here also seems to require this interpretation. It is, הוא רוח rûach hû', the Spirit itself; meaning the very Spirit that gives wisdom, or the Spirit of inspiration. He had said, in the previous verse, that it was reasonable to expect to find wisdom among the aged and the experienced. But in this he had been disappointed. He now finds that wisdom is not the attribute of rank or station, but that it is the gift of God, and therefore it may be found in a youth. All true wisdom, is the sentiment, is from above; and where the inspiration of the Almighty is, no matter whether with the aged or the young, there is understanding. Elihu undoubtedly means to say, that though he was much younger than they were, and though, according to the common estimate in which the aged and the young were held, he might be supposed to have much less acquaintance with the subjects under consideration, yet, as all true wisdom came from above, he might be qualified to speak. The word "spirit" here, therefore, refers to the spirit which God gives; and the passage is a proof that it was an early opinion that certain men were under the teachings of divine inspiration.

APPENDIX - BDB entry for רוּחַ (Ruach)

378 noun feminineGenesis 41:8 (less often masculine Exodus 10:13 +) breath, wind, spirit; — absolute ׳ר Genesis 8:1 +, ר֑וּחָה Jeremiah 52:23; construct רוּחַ Genesis 6:17 +; suffix רוּחִי Genesis 6:3 +, רוּחֲךָ Psalm 104:30 +, etc.; plural רוּחוֺת Psalm 104:4 +, רֻחוֺת Jeremiah 49:36, רוּחֹת Numbers 16:22; Numbers 26:16 (see Brרוח in O.T., JBL xix (1900), 132 ff., full statement of all passages); — 1 breath of mouth or nostrils (33 t.):

a. רוּחַ מִּיו Job 15:30 breath of his mouth, compare Job 19:17; רוּחַ אַמֵּינוּ Lamentations 4:20 (figurative of king), of idols לֹא רוּחַ בָּם Jeremiah 10:14 = Jeremiah 51:17, Habakkuk 2:19; Psalm 135:17; compare Job 9:18.

b. as mere breath: compare 2e. דִּבְרֵירֿוּחַ Job 16:3 i.e. windy words; נוֺאָשׁ לְרוּחַ אִמְרֵי Job 6:26, הַנְּבִיאִים יִהְיוּ לְרוּחַ Jeremiah 5:13.

c. as word of command: (1) of God: (נעשׂו) בְּרוּחַ מִּיו כָּלֿ צְבָאָםPsalm 33:6, compare Isaiah 34:16 ("" מֶּה); (2) of Messianic king: בְּרוּחַ שְׂפָתָיו יָמִית רָשָׁע Isaiah 11:4.

d. as hard breathing through the nostrils in anger: (1) of God: מֵרוּח אַמּוֺ יִכְלוּ Job 4:9; Exodus 15:8 (poem), 2 Samuel 22:16 = Psalm 18:16; Isaiah 30:28; Isaiah 59:19; (2) of man: רוּחַ עָרִיצִים Isaiah 25:4.

e. as sign and symbol of life: רוּחַ חַיִּים breath of life Genesis 6:17; Genesis 7:15 (P); נִשְׁמַת רוּחַ חַיִּים בְּאַמָּיו Genesis 7:22 (P); Ezekiel 37:5, compare Ezekiel 37:6; Ezekiel 37:8; Ezekiel 37:9; Ezekiel 37:9; Ezekiel 37:9; Ezekiel 37:10; Ezekiel 37:14 (breath or spirit), Ecclesiastes 3:19.

2 wind (117 t.):

a. wind of heaven: Genesis 8:1 (P) Exodus 15:10 (E) Numbers 11:31 (J) 1 Kings 18:45 +, Jeremiah 10:13, thence Jeremiah 51:16; Psalm 135:7; ׳רוּחַ י Hosea 13:15; Isaiah 40:7, compare Job 26:13 (Di Bu); רוּחַ (ה)קָדִים east wind Exodus 10:13 (twice in verse); Exodus 14:21 (J) Psalm 48:8; Jeremiah 18:17; Ezekiel 17:10; Ezekiel 19:12; Ezekiel 27:26; Jonah 4:8; צָפוֺן ׳ר north wind Proverbs 25:23; יָם ׳ר sea wind (west wind) Exodus 10:19 (J); . הַיּוֺם ׳ר day wind, evening wind Genesis 3:8 (J; compare Songs 2:17; Songs 4:6); אַרְבַּע רוּחוֺת four winds Jeremiah 49:36; Ezekiel 37:9 (quarters?) Daniel 8:8; Daniel 11:4 (figurative quarters; compare

b), Zechariah 2:10; Zechariah 6:5; רוּחַ סְעְרָה storm wind Psalm 107:25; Psalm 148:8; Ezekiel 1:4 (סְעָרוֺת ׳ר), Ezekiel 13:11,13; רוּחַ סֹעָה rushing wind Psalm 55:9 (read possibly סערה Hup); בַּעְיָם רוּחוֺ Isaiah 11:15 (read ׳בְּעֹצֶם ר, see עֲיָם, עֹצֶם), etc; wind personified: כַּנְפֵי רוּחַ 2 Samuel 22:11 = Psalm 18:11; Psalm 104:3, compare Hosea 4:19; Psalm 104:4.

b. quarter (of wind), side: רוּחַ הַקָּדִים Ezekiel 42:16 east side; רוּחַ הַצָּפוֺן Ezekiel 42:17 north side; רוּחַ הַדָּרוֺם Ezekiel 42:18 south side; רוּחַ הַיָּם Ezekiel 42:19 west side; אַרְבַּע רוּחוֺת Ezekiel 42:20; 1 Chronicles 9:24 four sides; ר֑וּחָה Jeremiah 52:23 on the sides.

c. breath of air: שָׁאֲפוּ רוּחַ כַּתַּנִּים Jeremiah 14:6; רוּחַ לֹא יָבֹא בֵּינֵיהֶם Job 41:8.

d. air, gas, from womb (dubious): כְּמוֺ יָלַדְנוּ רוּחַ Isaiah 26:18 (Di, e); רוּחֲכֶם אֵשׁ תֹּאכַלְכֶם (RV breath) Isaiah 33:11 (Du, 3c).

e. vain, empty thing: רוּחַיָּי֑ Job 7:7 my life is wind; דַּעַת רוּחַ Job 15:2; רוּחַ וָתֹהוּ נִסְכֵּיהֶם Isaiah 41:29; רְעוּת רוּחַ striving for wind Ecclesiastes 1:14; Ecclesiastes 2:11,17,26; Ecclesiastes 4:4,6; Ecclesiastes 6:9; compare Ecclesiastes 1:17; Ecclesiastes 4:16; Ecclesiastes 5:15.

3 spirit, as that which breathes quickly in animation or agitation = temper, disposition (76 t.; so, distinctively, as compared with נֶפֶשׁ and לֵבָב):

a. spirit, animation, vivacity, vigour: לֹא הָיָה בָהּ עוֺד רוּחַ 1 Kings 10:5 2Chronicles 9:4; מַהזֶּֿה רוּחֲךָ סָרָה 1 Kings 21:5; וַתְּחִי רוּחַ Genesis 45:27 (E); וַתָּשָׁב רוּחוֺ Judges 15:19; 1 Samuel 30:12.

b. courage: ׳לֹא הָיָה בָם עוֺד ר Joshua 5:1; נְגִידִים ׳יִבְצֹר ר Psalm 76:13; מִצְרַיִם ׳וְנָָֽבְקָה ר Isaiah 19:3; תתעטּף רוּחִי Psalm 77:4; Psalm 142:4; Psalm 143:4; לֹא קָמָה ׳עוֺד ר Joshua 2:11; אִישׁ יְכַלְכֵּל מַחֲלֵהוּ ׳ר Proverbs 18:14.

c. temper, especially anger: ׳רוּחַ רָעָה בֵּין וגו Judges 9:23; אָז רָֽפְתָה רוּחָם Judges 8:3; משֵׁל בְּרוּחוֺ Proverbs 16:32, compare Proverbs 25:28; Proverbs 29:11; Job 15:13; הֵנִיחוּ אֶתרֿוּחִי Zechariah 6:8; Ecclesiastes 7:9; Ecclesiastes 10:4.

d. impatience or patience: קֹצֶר רוּחַ Exodus 6:9 (P) impatience, hastiness of temper, compare (of ׳י) Micah 2:7; קְצַררֿוּחַ Proverbs 14:29 ("" אֶרֶךְ אַפַיִם); הֱצִיקַתְנִי רוּחַ בִּטְנִי Job 32:18 (Du breath; Di Bu divine spirit, compare Job 32:8); אִם מַדּוּעַ לֹאתִֿקְצַר רוּחִי Job 21:4; ׳הֲקָצַר רוּחַ י Micah 2:7; ׳אֶרֶךְ ר Ecclesiastes 7:8.

e. spirit, disposition, as troubled, bitter, or discontented; וַתִּמָּעֶם רוּח(וׅ (his) spirit was troubled Genesis 41:8 (E) Daniel 2:3, compare Daniel 2:1; מֹרַת רוּחַ Genesis 26:35 (P) bitterness of spirit; ׳עֲצוּבַת ר Isaiah 54:6, compare Ezekiel 3:14; Job 6:4.

f. as crushed: וְכִהֲתָה כָלרֿוּחַ Ezekiel 21:12, compare Isaiah 61:3; Proverbs 15:4,13; Proverbs 17:22; Proverbs 18:14; Psalm 143:7.

g. disposition of various kinds, often unaccountable and uncontrollable impulse: הֵעִיר אֶתרֿוּחַ 1 Chronicles 5:26 (twice in verse); 2Chronicles 21:16; 36:22; Ezra 1:1,5; Jeremiah 51:11; Haggai 1:14 (3 t. in verse); הִנְנִי נ(וֺ)תֵן בּוֺ רוּח2Kings 19:7 = Isaiah 37:7; Numbers 14:24 (J; see עִם 4b), Malachi 2:15 (twice in verse); Malachi 2:16; Deuteronomy 2:30; רוּחַ קִנְאָה jealous disposition Numbers 5:14 (twice in verse); Numbers 5:30 (P); רוּחַ וְנוּנִים Hosea 4:12; Hosea 5:4; רוּחַ עִוְעִיםIsaiah 19:14; רוּחַ מִשְׁמָּט Isaiah 28:6; אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר רוּחַ אֱלהִֹרם בּוֺ (administrative) Genesis 41:38 (E); קַר רוּחַ אִישׁ הְּבוּנָה Proverbs 17:27.

h. prophetic spirit: יְהוֺשֻׁעַ אִישׁ אֲשֶׁרֿ רוּחַ בּזֹNumbers 27:18 (P; or

g, as Genesis 41:38); רוּחַ אֵלִיָּהוּ עַלאֱֿלִישָׁע2Kings 2:15, compare 2 Kings 2:9; רוּחַ תַּרְדֵמָה spirit of deep sleep (ecstatic, compare Genesis 2:21; Genesis 15:12, but Di and others

g, as Isaiah 19:14) Isaiah 29:10; Micah 2:11; רוּחַ הַטֻמְאָה Zechariah 13:2 (of lying prophets), compare Ezekiel 13:3.

4 spirit of the living, breathing being, dwelling in the בָּשָׂר of men and animals, "" נֶפֶשׁ (25 t.):

a. gift and creation of God: יֹצֵר רוּחַ אָדָם בְּקִרְבּוֺ Zechariah 12:1; רוּחַ אֱלוֺהַּ בְּאַמִּי Job 27:3, compare Isaiah 42:5.

b. God preserves it: מְּקֻדָּֽתְךָ שָֽׁמְרָה רוּחִי Job 10:12, compare Job 12:10; אֱלֹהֵי הָרוּחֹת לְכָל בָּשָׂ֑ר Numbers 16:22; Numbers 27:16 (P); תֹּכֵן רוּחוֺת Proverbs 16:2.

c. it is therefore God's spirit: Genesis 6:3 (J; see דִּין near the end).

d. it departs at death: Psalm 78:39 (Dr a wind that passeth away 2e); חַיֵּי רוּחִי Isaiah 38:16 (Di principle of life), Psalm 146:4; especially Psalm 104:29; Psalm 104:30; Job 17:1; Job 34:14 (compare Job 34:15), Isaiah 57:16; Ecclesiastes 8:8 (twice in verse) (wind Wild); אֵינְךָ יוֺדֵעַ מַהדֶּֿרֶךְ הָרוּחַ Ecclesiastes 11:5, compare Ecclesiastes 3:21; over ag. הָרוּחַ תָּשׁוּב אֶלהָֿאֱלֹהִים אֲשֶׁר נְתָנָהּ Ecclesiastes 12:7; בְּיָָֽדְךָ אַפְקִיד רוּחִי Psalm 31:6.

e. disembodied being (dubious, Di Du breath of wind): וְרוּחַ עַלמָּֿנַי יַחֲלֹף Job 4:15.

5 spirit as seat of emotion = נֶפֶשׁ:

a. desire (possibly 3g), Isaiah 26:9 ("" נֶפֶשׁ).

b. sorrow, trouble (probably 3e), Job 7:11 ("" נֶפֶשׁ). — 1 Samuel 1:15 see קָשֶׁה.

6 occasionally, (and late) = seat or organ of mental acts, "" לֵב, or synonym with it: רוּחַ חָכְמָה Exodus 28:3; Deuteronomy 34:9 (both P; probably 3g); תּעֵי רוּחַ Isaiah 29:24, compare Job 20:3 (Hi Bu Du wind of Job's words), Psalm 77:7 (ᵐ5 Symm ᵑ6 Jerome troubled disposition); רוּחַ יהוה Isaiah 40:13; come into mind Ezekiel 11:5, 20:32 (compare לֵב Isaiah 65:17; Jeremiah 3:16 +); 1 Chronicles 28:12.

7 rarely of the will; also = רוּחַ נָכוֺן לֵב Psalm 51:12 (= לֵב נָכוֺן Psalm 57:8 (twice in verse) +); רוּחַ נְדִיבָה Psalm 51:14; נָָֽדְבָה רוּחוֺ Exodus 35:21 (P; compare נְדִיב לֵב Exodus 35:5,22 (P) 2 Chronicles 29:31).

8 רוּחַ especially of moral character; also = ׃לֵב רוּחַ חֲדָשָׁהEzekiel 11:19; 18:31; 36:26; רוּחִי Ezekiel 36:27; Isaiah 59:21 (רוּחִי, "" דְּבָרַי; but probably prophetic spirit

9b); לֵב חָדָשׁ Ezekiel 18:31; Ezekiel 36:26; נְכֵה רוּחַ Isaiah 66:2; דַּכְּאֵי רוּחַ Psalm 34:19 (compare לֵב נִדְכָּאִים Isaiah 57:15); מִשֵּׁבֶר רוּחַ Isaiah 65:14 (compare 3f); רוּחַ נִשְׁבָּרֶה Psalm 51:19 ("" לֵב נִשְׁבָּר, compare נִשְׁבְּרֵי לֵב Psalm 34:19; Isaiah 61:1); Psalm 32:2; Proverbs 11:13; Proverbs 16:18; Psalm 78:8; Ecclesiastes 7:8 (compare גְּבַהּלֵב Proverbs 16:5); שְׁפַל רוּחַ Proverbs 16:19; Proverbs 29:23; Isaiah 57:15; רוּחַ שְׁפָלִים Isaiah 57:15 (compare 3f).

9 spirit of God (94 t.; not D or Jeremiah or any Deuteronomic writer; conception of its activity in inspiring prophecy probably discredited from abuse by false prophets, see נביא, נבא):

a. as inspiring ecstatic state of prophecy, Numbers 11:17,25 (twice in verse); Numbers 11:26,29 (J), 1 Samuel 10:6,10 (compare 1 Samuel 10:5), 1 Samuel 19:20,23; as inciting to deeds of frenzy, in the ecstatic state; hence conceived as אֱלֹהִים רָעָה ׳ר 1 Samuel 16:15 (twice in verse); 1 Samuel 16:16, = ׳רָעָה מֵאֵת י ׳ר 1 Samuel 16:14 = רָעָה ׳א ׳צלח ר 1 Samuel 18:10 (other narrative) = רָעָה ׳י ׳ר 1 Samuel 19:9; ׳א ׳ר 1 Samuel 16:23 = רוּחַ הָרָעָה 1 Samuel 16:23, compare הָרוּחַ 1 Kings 22:21 = שֶׁקֶר ׳ר 1 Kings 22:22; 1 Kings 22:23 2Chronicles 18:20,21,22 = ׳רוּחַ י 1 Kings 22:24 2Chronicles 18:23; compare also (in earlier prophets) אִישׁ הָרוּחַ, i.e. one possessed by the spirit in the ecstatic state, "" הַנָּבִּיא Hosea 9:7; ׳רוּחַ י Micah 3:8 ("" בֹּחַ) is probably gloss (We Now); וְלֹא רוּחִי Isaiah 30:1; רוּחַ dealing with Ezek.: Ezekiel 2:2; Ezekiel 3:12,14,24; Ezekiel 8:3; Ezekiel 11:1,5,24 (Co gloss), Ezekiel 37:1; Ezekiel 43:5 (all implying ecstatic state of vision), compare Elijah 1 Kings 18:12; 2 Kings 2:16.

b. spirit as impelling prophets to utter instruction or warning (higher and later conception): transition probably Numbers 24:2; 2 Samuel 23:2; 1 Chronicles 12:18; elsewhere in Chronicles: 2Chronicles 15:1; 20:14; 24:20; distinctly in Isa2, Isaiah 48:16, compare Isaiah 61:1; so of ancient prophets, Zechariah 7:12; Nehemiah 9:30; compare, of future prophetic gift, Joel 3:1; Joel 3:2.

c. imparting warlike energy, and executive and administrative power: (1) to שֹׁפְטִים, מוֺשִׁיעִים, מְלָכִים, of ancient Israel: וַתְּהִי רוּחַ על ׳י Judges 3:10; Judges 11:29, compare Judges 6:34; Judges 13:25; Judges 14:6,19; Judges 15:14; 1 Samuel 11:6; 1 Samuel 16:13,14; so also עַד יֵעָרֶה עָלֵינוּ רוּחַ מִמָּרוֺם Isaiah 32:15; (2) resting upon Messianic king: Isaiah 11:2 (3 t. in verse); upon servant of ׳י, Isaiah 42:1.

d. late, as endowing men with various gifts: technical skill Exodus 31:3; Exodus 35:31 (P); understanding Job 32:8 ("" נִשְׁמַת שַׁדַּי); poured out by divine wisdom Proverbs 1:23.

e. as energy of life: רוּחַ אֱלֹהִים מְרַחֶפֶת עַלמְּֿנֵי הַמָּ֑יִם Genesis 1:2 (P); רוּחַ אֵל עָשָׂ֑תְנִי Job 33:4 ("" נִשְׁמַת שַׁדַּי); as vital power, opposed to בָשָׂר: Isaiah 31:3; in cherubic chariot: Ezekiel 1:12, compare Ezekiel 1:20; Ezekiel 1:21; Ezekiel 10:17; reviving Israel Ezekiel 39:29; Zechariah 12:10; Isaiah 44:3.

f. = ancient angel of the presence and later Shekina: קָדְשׁוֺ ׳ר Isaiah 63:10,11 = ׳י ׳ר Isaiah 63:14 (= מַלְאַךְ מָּנָיו Isaiah 63:9), compare Psalm 106:33; so also קָדְשְׁךָ ׳ר Psalm 51:13 (in national prayer), compare Nehemiah 9:20; Psalm 143:10; prophets of restoration conceive of the divine spirit as standing in their midst and about to fulfil all divine promises: רוּחִי עֹמֶדֶת בְּתוֺכֲכֶם Haggai 2:5; Zechariah 4:6; this conception culminates in רוּחַ = divine Presence, and as such omnipresent, Psalm 139:7 ("" מָּנֶיךָ; compare Psalm 139:8).

5
  • But there is a spirit in man - This evidently refers to a spirit imparted from above, a spirit from the Almighty = "Breath of life". ? The word "spirit" here, therefore, refers to the spirit which God gives; and the passage is a proof that it was an early opinion that certain men were under the teachings of divine inspiration.= "Divine teachings". There appears to be two spirits in Barnes exegesis, so what is the need of the Holy Spirit in the New testament.? Just a point, +1
    – Bagpipes
    Jan 20 at 21:44
  • Correction: One spirit in Barnes exegesis and two spirits in the text. “But there is a spirit in man, And the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding.” ‭‭Job‬ ‭32:8‬ ‭NKJV‬‬. Spirit in man= "breath of life", Understanding= "Breath of life". compare , biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%2020%3A22&version=NIV and biblegateway.com/passage/…
    – Bagpipes
    Jan 20 at 22:35
  • Well presented answer, +1
    – Cork88
    Jan 21 at 0:35
  • @Bagpipes - In this text, the word "spirit" occurs only once and the different word "breath" occurs only once.
    – Dottard
    Jan 21 at 6:43
  • Thanks Dottard, I learned a lot from your answer.+1
    – Bagpipes
    Jan 21 at 17:00

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