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    Keep, Oversee — Know

    Keep, Oversee

    A. Verb.VED-OT Keep, Oversee.2

    Nâtsach (נָצַח, Strong's #5329), “to keep, oversee, have charge over.” The word appears as “to set forward” in the sense of “to oversee or to lead” in 1 Chronicles 23:4, 2 Chronicles 34:12, Ezra 3:8, and Ezra 3:9: “Then stood Jeshua with his sons and his brethren, Kadmiel and his sons, the sons of Judah, together, to set forward the workmen in the house of God.…” The word appears as “to oversee” in 2 Chronicles 2:2: “And Solomon told out threescore and ten thousand men to bear burdens … and three thousand and six hundred to oversee them.”VED-OT Keep, Oversee.3

    B. Participle.VED-OT Keep, Oversee.4

    Nâtsach (נָצַח, Strong's #5329), “overseer; director.” Used throughout the history of the Hebrew language, this root is used in the noun sense in modern Hebrew to mean “eternity, perpetuity.” While this word is used approximately 65 times in the Hebrew Old Testament, almost all of them (except for 5 or 6) are participles, used as verbal-nouns. The participial form has the meaning of “overseer, director,” reflecting the idea that one who is pre-eminent or conspicuous is an “overseer.” Thus, nâtsach is found in the Book of Psalms a total of 55 times in the titles of various psalms (Psalms 5:1; 6:1; 9:1 et al.) with the meaning, “To the choirmaster” (JB, RSV). Other versions render it “choir director” (NASB); “chief musician” (KJV); and “leader” (NAB). The significance of this title is not clear. Of the 55 psalms involved, 39 are connected with the name of David, 9 with Korah, and 5 with Asaph, leaving only two anonymous psalms. The Hebrew preposition meaning “to” or “for” which is used with this participle could mean assignment to the person named, or perhaps more reasonably, an indication of a collection of psalms known by the person’s name. This title is found also at the end of Habakkuk 3, showing that this psalm was part of a director’s collection.VED-OT Keep, Oversee.5

    The word refers to “overseers” in 2 Chronicles 2:18: “… and three thousand and six hundred overseers to set the people a work.”VED-OT Keep, Oversee.6

    C. Adjective.VED-OT Keep, Oversee.7

    Nâtsach is used only in Jeremiah 8:5 in the sense of “enduring”: “Why then is this people of Jerusalem slidden back by a perpetual backsliding?”VED-OT Keep, Oversee.8

    Keep, Watch, Guard

    A. Verb. VED-OT Keep, Watch, Guard.2

    Nâtsar (נָצַר, Strong's #5341), “to watch, to guard, to keep.” Common to both ancient and modern Hebrew, this verb is found also in ancient Ugaritic. It occurs some 60 times in the Hebrew Old Testament. Nâtsar is found for the first time in the biblical text in Exodus 34:7, where it has the sense of “keeping with faithfulness.” This meaning is usually found when man is the subject: “keeping” the covenant (Deuteronomy 33:9); “keeping” the law (Psalms 105:45 and 10 times in Psalms 119); “keeping” the rules of parents (Proverbs 6:20).VED-OT Keep, Watch, Guard.3

    Nâtsar is frequently used to express the idea of “guarding” something, such as a vineyard (Isaiah 27:3) or a fortification (Nahum 2:1). “To watch” one’s speech is a frequent concern, so advice is given “to watch” one’s mouth (Proverbs 13:3), the tongue (Psalms 34:13), and the lips (Psalms 141:3). Many references are made to God as the one who “preserves” His people from dangers of all kinds (Deuteronomy 32:10; Psalms 31:23). Generally, nâtsar is a close synonym to the much more common verb, shâmar, “to keep, tend.” Sometimes “to keep” has the meaning of “to besiege,” as in Isaiah 1:8, “… as a besieged city.”VED-OT Keep, Watch, Guard.4

    Shâmar (שָׁמַר, Strong's #8104), “to keep, tend, watch over, retain.” This verb occurs in most Semitic languages (biblical Aramaic attests only a noun formed from this verb). Biblical Hebrew attests it about 470 times and in every period.VED-OT Keep, Watch, Guard.5

    Shâmar means “to keep” in the sense of “tending” and taking care of. So God put Adam “into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it” (Genesis 2:15—the first occurrence). In 2 Kings 22:14 Harhas is called “keeper of the wardrobe” (the priest’s garments). Satan was directed “to keep,” or “to tend” (so as not to allow it to be destroyed) Job’s life: “Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life” (Job 2:6). In this same sense God is described as the keeper of Israel (Psalms 121:4).VED-OT Keep, Watch, Guard.6

    The word also means “to keep” in the sense of “watching over” or giving attention to. David, ironically chiding Abner for not protecting Saul, says: “Art not thou a valiant man? and who is like to thee in Israel? wherefore then hast thou not kept thy lord the king?” (1 Samuel 26:15). In extended application this emphasis comes to mean “to watch, observe”: “And it came to pass, as she continued praying before the Lord, that Eli [was watching] her mouth” (1 Samuel 1:12). Another extended use of the verb related to this emphasis appears in covenantal contexts. In such cases “keep” means “to watch over” in the sense of seeing that one observes the covenant, keeping one to a covenant. God says of Abraham: “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment …” (Genesis 18:19). As God had said earlier, “Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations” (Genesis 17:9). When used in close connection with another verb, shâmar can signify carefully or watchfully doing that action: “And he answered and said, Must I not take heed to speak that which the Lord hath put in my mouth?” (Numbers 23:12). Not only does shâmar signify watching, but it signifies doing it as a watchman in the sense of fulfilling a responsibility: “And the spies saw a man come forth out of the city …” (Judges 1:24).VED-OT Keep, Watch, Guard.7

    In a third group of passages this verb means “to keep” in the sense of saving or “retaining.” When Jacob told his family about his dream, “his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying” (Genesis 37:11); he “retained” it mentally. Joseph tells Pharaoh to appoint overseers to gather food: “And let them … lay up corn under the hand of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities” (Genesis 41:35); let them not give it out but see that it is “retained” in storage.VED-OT Keep, Watch, Guard.8

    In three passages shâmar seems to have the same meaning as the Akkadian root, “to revere.” So the psalmist says: “I have hated them that regard [revere] lying vanities: but I trust in the Lord” (Psalms 31:6).VED-OT Keep, Watch, Guard.9

    B. Nouns. VED-OT Keep, Watch, Guard.10

    Mishmâr (מִשְׁמָר, Strong's #4929), “guard; guardpost.” In the first of its 22 occurrences mishmâr means “guard”: “And he put them in ward [mishmâr] in the house of the captain of the guard, into the prison …” (Genesis 40:3). The word implies “guardpost” in Nehemiah 7:3. The word also refers to men on “guard” (Nehemiah 4:23) and to groups of attendants (Nehemiah 12:24).VED-OT Keep, Watch, Guard.11

    Mishmereth (מִשְׁמֶרֶת, Strong's #4931), “those who guard; obligation.” This noun appears 78 times. The word refers to “those who guard” in 2 Kings 11:5: “… A third part of you that enter in on the sabbath shall even be keepers of the watch of the king’s house.” In Genesis 26:5 the word refers to an “obligation”: “Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.”VED-OT Keep, Watch, Guard.12

    Some other nouns are related to the verb shamar. Shemarim refers to “dregs of wine, lees.” One of the 4 appearances of this word is in Isaiah 25:6: “… shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined.” The noun shamrah means “guard, watch.” The single appearance of this word is in Psalms 141:3. Shimmurim means a “night vigil.” In Exodus 12:42 this word carries the meaning of “night vigil” in the sense of “night of watching”: “It is a night to be much observed unto the Lord for bringing them out from the land of Egypt: this is that night of the Lord to be observed of all the children of Israel in their generations.” This noun occurs twice in this entry and in no other verse. ’Ashmurah (or ’ashmoret) refers to “watch.” This noun occurs 7 times and in Exodus 14:24 refers to “morning watch”: “… that in the morning watch the Lord looked unto the host of the Egyptians.…”VED-OT Keep, Watch, Guard.13


    Shâchaṭ (שָׁחַט, Strong's #7819), “to slaughter, kill.” This word is common to both ancient and modern Hebrew, as well as ancient Ugaritic. The idea that the ancient Akkadian term shachashu (“to flay”) may be related appears to have some support in the special use of shâchaṭ in 1 Kings 10:16-17: “beaten gold” (see also 2 Chronicles 9:15-16). Shâchaṭ occurs in the Hebrew Bible approximately 80 times. It first appears in Genesis 22:10: “And Abraham … took the knife to slay his son.” Expressing “slaying” for sacrifice is the most frequent use of shâchaṭ (51 times); and as might be expected, the word is found some 30 times in the Book of Leviticus alone.VED-OT Kill.2

    Shâchaṭ sometimes implies the “slaughtering” of animals for food (1 Samuel 14:32, 34; Isaiah 22:13). The word is used of the “killing” of people a number of times (Judges 12:6; 1 Kings 18:40; 2 Kings 10:7, 14). Sometimes God is said “to slay” people (Numbers 14:16). Backslidden Judah went so far as “to slaughter” children as sacrifices to false gods (Ezekiel 16:21; 23:39; Isaiah 57:5).VED-OT Kill.3

    Hârag (הָרַג, Strong's #2026), “to kill, slay, destroy.” This term is commonly used in modern Hebrew in its verb and noun forms to express the idea of “killing, slaughter.” The fact that it is found in the Old Testament some 170 times reflects how commonly this verb was used to indicate the taking of life, whether animal or human. Hârag is found for the first time in the Old Testament in the Cain and Abel story (Genesis 4:8; also vv. 14-15).VED-OT Kill.4

    Rarely suggesting premeditated killing or murder, this term generally is used for the “killing” of animals, including sacrificially, and for ruthless personal violence of man against man. Hârag is not the term used in the sixth commandment (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17). The word there is hârag, and since it implies premeditated killing, the commandment is better translated: “Do not murder,” as most modern versions have it.VED-OT Kill.5

    The word hârag often means wholesale slaughter, both in battle and after battle (Numbers 31:7-8; Joshua 8:24; 2 Samuel 10:18). The word is only infrequently used of men’s killing at the command of God. In such instances, the causative form of the common Hebrew verb for “to die” is commonly found. In general, hârag refers to violent “killing” and destruction, sometimes even referring to the “killing” of vines by hail (Psalms 78:47).VED-OT Kill.6

    Râtsach (רָצַח, Strong's #7523), “to kill, murder, slay.” This verb occurs more than 40 times in the Old Testament, and its concentration is in the Pentateuch. Râtsach is rare in rabbinic Hebrew, and its usage has been increased in modern Hebrew with the exclusive meaning of “to murder.” Apart from Hebrew, the verb appears in Arabic with the meaning of “to bruise, to crush.”VED-OT Kill.7

    Râtsach occurs primarily in the legal material of the Old Testament. This is not a surprise, as God’s law included regulations on life and provisions for dealing with the murderer. The Decalogue gives the general principle in a simple statement, which contains the first occurrence of the verb: “Thou shalt not kill [murder]” (Exodus 20:13). Another provision pertains to the penalty: “Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses …” (Numbers 35:30). However, before a person is put to death, he is assured of a trial.VED-OT Kill.8

    The Old Testament recognizes the distinction between premeditated murder and unintentional killing. In order to assure the rights of the manslayer, who unintentionally killed someone, the law provided for three cities of refuge (Numbers 35; Deuteronomy 19; Joshua 20:1; 21:1) on either side of the Jordan, to which a manslayer might flee and seek asylum: “… that the slayer may flee thither, which killeth any person at unawares” (Numbers 35:11). The provision gave the manslayer access to the court system, for he might be “killed” by the blood avenger if he stayed within his own community (Numbers 35:21). He is to be tried (Numbers 35:12), and if he is found to be guilty of unintentional manslaughter, he is required to stay in the city of refuge until the death of the high priest (Numbers 35:28). The severity of the act of murder is stressed in the requirement of exile even in the case of unintentional murder. The man guilty of manslaughter is to be turned over to the avenger of blood, who keeps the right of killing the manslayer if the manslayer goes outside the territory of the city of refuge before the death of the high priest. On the other hand, if the manslayer is chargeable with premeditated murder (examples of which are given in Numbers 35:16-21), the blood avenger may execute the murderer without a trial. In this way the Old Testament underscores the principles of the sanctity of life and of retribution; only in the cities of refuge is the principle of retribution suspended.VED-OT Kill.9

    The prophets use râtsach to describe the effect of injustice and lawlessness in Israel: “… because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery …” (Hosea 4:1-2; cf. Isaiah 1:21; Jeremiah 7:9). The psalmist, too, metaphorically expresses the deprivation of the rights of helpless murder victims: “They slay the widow and the stranger, and murder the fatherless” (Psalms 94:6).VED-OT Kill.10

    The Septuagint gives the following translation: phoneuein (“murder; kill; put to death”). The KJV gives these senses: “kill; murder; be put to death; be slain.”VED-OT Kill.11


    Malkûth (מַלְכֻוָּה, Strong's #4438), “kingdom; reign; rule.” The word malkûth occurs 91 times in the Hebrew Old Testament and apparently belongs to late biblical Hebrew. The first occurrence is in Numbers 24:7: “He shall pour the water out of his buckets, and his seed shall be in many waters, and his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted.”VED-OT Kingdom.2

    The word malkûth denotes: (1) the territory of the kingdom: “When he showed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the honor of his excellent majesty many days, even a hundred and fourscore days” (Esther 1:4); (2) the accession to the throne: “For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14); (3) the year of rule: “So Esther was taken unto king Ahasuerus into his house royal in the tenth month, which is the month Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign” (Esther 2:16); and (4) anything “royal” or “kingly”: throne (Esther 1:2), wine (Esther 1:7), crown (Esther 1:11), word (Esther 1:19), garment (Esther 6:8), palace (Esther 1:9), scepter (Psalms 45:6), and glory(Psalms 145:11-12).VED-OT Kingdom.3

    The Septuagint translations of malkûth are: basileia (“kingship; kingdom; royal power”) and basileus (“king”).VED-OT Kingdom.4

    Mamlâkâh (מַמְלָכָה, Strong's #4467), “kingdom; sovereignty; dominion; reign.” The word appears about 115 times throughout the Old Testament. Mamlâkâh occurs first in Genesis 10:10: “And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar” in the sense of the “realm” of the kingdom.VED-OT Kingdom.5

    The basic meaning of mamlâkâh is the area and people that constitute a “kingdom.” The word refers to non-lsraelite nations who are ruled by a melek, “king”: “And it shall come to pass after the end of seventy years, that the Lord will visit Tyre, and she shall turn to her hire, and shall commit fornication with all the kingdoms of the world upon the face of the earth” (Isaiah 23:17). Mamlâkâh is a synonym for ’am, “people,” and goy, “nation”: “… they went from one nation to another, from one kingdom to another people” (Psalms 105:13). Mamlâkâh also denotes Israel as God’s “kingdom”: “And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6). The Davidic king was the theocratic agent by whom God ruled over and blessed His people: “And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever” (2 Samuel 7:16). Nevertheless, the one mamlâkâh after Solomon was divided into two kingdoms which Ezekiel predicted would be reunited: " And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms …” (Ezekiel 37:22).VED-OT Kingdom.6

    Close to the basic meaning is the usage of mamlâkâh to denote “king,” as the king was considered to be the embodiment of the “kingdom.” He was viewed as a symbol of the kingdom proper: “Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all kingdoms, and of them that oppressed you” (1 Samuel 10:18; in Hebrew the noun “kingdoms” is feminine and the verb “oppress” has a masculine form, signifying that we must understand “kingdoms” as “kings”).VED-OT Kingdom.7

    The function and place of the king is important in the development of the concept “kingdom.” “Kingdom” may signify the head of the kingdom. The word further has the meaning of the royal “rule,” the royal “sovereignty,” and the “dominion.” The royal “sovereignty” was taken from Saul because of his disobedience (1 Samuel 28:17). “Royal sovereignty” is also the sense in Jeremiah 27:1: “In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim.…” The Old Testament further defines as expressions of the royal “rule” all things associated with the king: (1) the throne: “And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites” (Deuteronomy 17:18); (2) the pagan sanctuary supported by the throne: “But prophesy not again any more at Beth-el: for it is the king’s chapel, and it is the king’s court” (Amos 7:13); and (3) a royal city: “And David said unto Achish, If I have now found grace in thine eyes, let them give me a place in some town in the country, that I may dwell there: for why should thy servant dwell in the royal city with thee?” (1 Samuel 27:5).VED-OT Kingdom.8

    All human rule is under God’s control. Consequently the Old Testament fully recognizes the kingship of God. The Lord ruled as king over His people Israel (1 Chronicles 29:11). He graciously ruled over His people through David and his followers until the Exile (2 Chronicles 13:5). In the New Testament usage all the above meanings are to be associated with the Greek word basileia (“kingdom”). This is the major translation of mamlâkâh in the Septuagint, and as such it is small wonder that the New Testament authors used this word to refer to God’s “kingdom”: the realm, the king, the sovereignty, and the relationship to God Himself melek (מֶלֶךְ, Strong's #4428), “king.” This word occurs about 2,513 times in the Old Testament. It is found several times in Genesis 14:1: “And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of nations.”VED-OT Kingdom.9


    A. Verb.VED-OT Know.2

    Nâkar (נָכַר, Strong's #5234), “to know, regard, recognize, pay attention to, be acquainted with.” This verb, which is found in both ancient and modern Hebrew, occurs approximately 50 times in the Hebrew Old Testament. The first time is in Genesis 27:23: “… he did not recognize him” (RSV).VED-OT Know.3

    The basic meaning of the term is a physical apprehension, whether through sight, touch, or hearing. Darkness sometimes makes recognition impossible (Ruth 3:14). People are often “recognized” by their voices (Judges 18:3). Nâkar sometimes has the meaning “pay attention to,” a special kind of recognition: “Blessed be the man who took notice of [KJV, “took knowledge of”] you” (Ruth 2:19, RSV).VED-OT Know.4

    This verb can mean “to be acquainted with,” a kind of intellectual awareness: “… neither shall his place know him any more” (Job 7:10; cf. Psalms 103:16).VED-OT Know.5

    The sense of“to distinguish” is seen in Ezra 3:13: “… The people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people.…”VED-OT Know.6

    Yâda‛ (יָדַע, Strong's #3045), “to know.” This verb occurs in Ugaritic, Akkadian, Phoenician, Arabic (infrequently), biblical Aramaic, and in Hebrew in all periods. This verb occurs about 1,040 times (995 in Hebrew and 47 in Aramaic) in the Bible. Essentially yâda‛ means: (1) to know by observing and reflecting (thinking), and (2) to know by experiencing. The first sense appears in Genesis 8:11, where Noah “knew” the waters had abated as a result of seeing the freshly picked olive leaf in the dove’s mouth; he “knew” it after observing and thinking about what he had seen. He did not actually see or experience the abatement himself In contrast to this knowing through reflection is the knowing which comes through experience with the senses, by investigation and proving, by reflection and consideration (firsthand knowing). Consequently yâda‛ is used in synonymous parallelism with “hear” (Exodus 3:7), “see” (Genesis 18:21), and “perceive, see” (Job 28:7). Joseph told his brothers that were they to leave one of their number with him in Egypt then he would “know,” by experience, that they were honest men (Genesis 42:33). In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were forbidden to eat of the tree whose fruit if eaten would give them the experience of evil and, therefore, the knowledge of both good and evil. Somewhat characteristically the heart plays an important role in knowing. Because they experienced the sustaining presence of God during the wilderness wandering, the Israelites “knew” in their hearts that God was disciplining or caring for them as a father cares for a son (Deuteronomy 8:5). Such knowing can be hindered by a wrongly disposed heart (Psalms 95:10).VED-OT Know.7

    Thirdly, this verb can represent that kind of knowing which one learns and can give back. So Cain said that he did not “know” he was Abel’s keeper (Genesis 4:9), and Abram told Sarai that he “knew” she was a beautiful woman (Genesis 12:11). One can also “know” by being told—in Leviticus 5:1 a witness either sees or otherwise “knows” (by being told) pertinent information. In this sense “know” is paralleled by “acknowledge” (Deuteronomy 33:9) and “learn” (Deuteronomy 31:12-13). Thus, little children not yet able to speak do not “know” good and evil (Deuteronomy 1:39); they have not learned it so as to tell another what it is. In other words, their knowledge is not such that they can distinguish between good and evil.VED-OT Know.8

    In addition to the essentially cognitive knowing already presented, this verb has a purely experiential side. The “knower” has actual involvement with or in the object of the knowing. So Potiphar was unconcerned about (literally, “did not know about”) what was in his house (Genesis 39:6)—he had no actual contact with it. In Genesis 4:1 Adam’s knowing Eve also refers to direct contact with her—in a sexual relationship. In Genesis 18:19 God says He “knows” Abraham; He cared for him in the sense that He chose him from among other men and saw to it that certain things happened to him. The emphasis is on the fact that God “knew” him intimately and personally. In fact, it is parallel in concept to “sanctified” (cf. Jeremiah 1:5). A similar use of this word relates to God’s relationship to Israel as a chosen or elect nation (Amos 3:2).VED-OT Know.9

    Yâda‛ in the intensive and causative stems is used to express a particular concept of revelation. God did not make Himself known by His name Jehovah to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He did reveal that name to them, that He was the God of the covenant. Nevertheless, the covenant was not fulfilled (they did not possess the Promised Land) until the time of Moses. The statement in Exodus 6:3 implies that now God was going to make Himself known “by His name”; He was going to lead them to possess the land. God makes Himself known through revelatory acts such as bringing judgment on the wicked (Psalms 9:16) and deliverance to His people (Isaiah 66:14). He also reveals Himself through the spoken word—for example, by the commands given through Moses (Ezekiel 20:11), by promises like those given to David (2 Samuel 7:21). Thus, God reveals Himself in law and promise.VED-OT Know.10

    “To know” God is to have an intimate experiential knowledge of Him. So Pharaoh denies that he knows Jehovah (Exodus 5:2) or that he recognizes His authority over him. Positively “to know” God is paralleled to fear Him (1 Kings 8:43), to serve (1 Chronicles 28:9), and to trust (Isaiah 43:10).VED-OT Know.11

    B. Noun.VED-OT Know.12

    Da‛ath (דַּעַת, Strong's #1847), “knowledge.” Several nouns are formed from yâda‛, and the most frequently occurring is da‛ath which appears 90 times in the Old Testament. One appearance is in Genesis 2:9: “… and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” The word also appears in Exodus 31:3.VED-OT Know.13

    C. Particle. VED-OT Know.14

    Maddûa‛ (מַדֻּעַ, Strong's #4069), “why.” This word, which occurs 72 times, is related to the verb yâda‛. The word is found in Exodus 1:18: “… Why have ye done this thing, and have saved the men children alive?”VED-OT Know.15

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