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2 Nephi Chapter 6

Scripture Mastery

2 Nephi 6-10 Jacob delivers an important two-day sermon to the Nephites.

In 2 Nephi chapters 6-10 we find a lengthy sermon delivered to the people by Nephi's brother Jacob. Jacob was born to Sariah some time during the eight years the family was traveling in the wilderness between Jerusalem and the land Bountiful. He was no stranger to hardships having traveled with his family in the wilderness. He was a first-hand witness of the rebellion of Laman and Lemuel. He was exceptionally sensitive and gifted in spiritual matters. Even as a youth he was visited by the Savior and "beheld his glory." He also was favored with "many revelations," and he "heard the voice of the Lord speaking to him in very word, from time to time" (2 Nephi 2:4; 2 Nephi 10:3; 2 Nephi 11:3; Jacob 7:5). He is indeed one of the major doctrinal teachers in the Book of Mormon. For a more detailed discussion of this great prophet, see the introductory comments for the book of Jacob.

Apparently Nephi appointed Jacob to speak at a special gathering of the people, and Nephi requested that his topic include those parts of Isaiah which we know as chapters 49 through 52. We are not told the exact nature of this gathering but assume it must have been some type of conference. Even though Jacob's sermon in 2 Nephi 6-10 occupies thirteen pages of the Book of Mormon text, we know that this account is only a portion of what Jacob said on that occasion. Jacob's complete discourse was so long that it took Jacob two days to deliver it, and Nephi was able to include only a part of the sermon on his "small" plates (2 Nephi 11:1). It seems obvious that Nephi had great respect for the spiritual and oratorical prowess of his brother Jacob.

1 The words of Jacob, the brother of Nephi, which he spake unto the people of Nephi:

2 Behold, my beloved brethren, I, Jacob, having been called of God, and ordained after the manner of his holy order, and having been consecrated by my brother Nephi, unto whom ye look as a king or a protector, and on whom ye depend for safety, behold ye know that I have spoken unto you exceedingly many things.

verse 2 "his holy order" This phrase refers to the higher or Melchizedek priesthood, and this verse seems to confirm the fact that the ordinations that Jacob and his brother Joseph received were ordinations in the Melchizedek priesthood (see also 2 Nephi 31:18; Alma 13:1; and Alma 43:2). As previously stated, the Aaronic priesthood under the law of Moses was held exclusively by the tribe of Levi, and as far as we know there were no Levites among the Book of Mormon peoples.

An important principle should also be stated here. With the priesthood comes order. When the priesthood exists upon the earth, the church organization also exists. Thus the Church of Jesus Christ exists here under the leadership of Nephi. We, however, know little about this church from the Book of Mormon.

Though the Book of Mormon is not explicit on this point, it seems certain that the Melchizedek Priesthood was received by worthy men beginning with Lehi and Nephi (see the Alma 13 and its commentary). It is by this authority that they baptized, confirmed, ordained, and offered sacrifices.

There are actually three priesthood-directed organizations, or churches, of varying structure established among the Nephites over a period of a thousand years:

1. The existence of the first of these churches is not specifically mentioned, though this verse provides evidence of its existence. It is apparent that Nephi functioned as the head of the church. Here we read of Nephi's ordaining and consecrating his brother Jacob to service in the church. We will later read of Nephi and his brethren "labor[ing] diligently" in testifying of Christ, the gospel, and its relationship to the law of Moses (2 Nephi 25:23-30; 2 Nephi 31:1-33:1). After the deaths of Nephi and Jacob, other priests and teachers will be mentioned together with "exceedingly many prophets" (Enos 1:22; cf. Jarom 1:11).

It is interesting to observe the interactions between the church and the law of Moses. Although Nephi wrote, "The law [of Moses] hath become dead unto us" (2 Nephi 25:25), the law and its rituals were strictly observed (1 Nephi 4:15-16; 2 Nephi 5:19; Jarom 1:5), and a temple patterned after that of Solomon's was built (2 Nephi 5:16). This church will seem to come to an end prior to the eventual migration north of the Nephites out of the land of Nephi, led by the Nephite king Mosiah (Omni 1). Nephi's brother Jacob will write of the causes of the demise of the church (Jacob 1:15-16; Jacob 3:4). Following Jacob's death, the generations will come and go as unnamed prophets and priests will labor to persuade the Nephites to honor their covenants with God. In the end, these prophetic warnings will be to no avail. By about 280 BC, Amaron will write, "The more wicked part of the Nephites were destroyed" (Omni 1:5).

We will learn that when the remnant of believing Nephites are led northward by king Mosiah in about 210 BC to the Land of Zarahemla, they will encounter the people of Zarahemla. This latter people had no scriptures and no belief in God (Omni 1:15-17; Helaman 8:21). Consequently, they had to be schooled in the preparatory law of Moses before they could receive the higher law of Christ. Thus, although the prophets knew of and were committed to Christ (Omni 1:26), the learning and the living of the preparatory law appears to have been the dominant religious concern of the people during the reigns of Mosiah and his son Benjamin.

2. The second church among the Nephites will appear when Alma, a priest of the wicked king Noah, is converted through the preachings of the prophet Abinadi (Alma 11-17). Alma will restore the gospel and the church among his converts. Alma and his followers will be "called the church of God, or the church of Christ, from that time forward" (Mosiah 18:17; cf. Alma 5:3). This will be the first specific reference in the Book of Mormon to a church of God among the Nephites. When Alma and his followers arrive back in Zarahemla, they will join with the inhabitants of Zarahemla, many of whom having been prepared to enter into the covenants of the gospel and church by the ministrations of king Benjamin (Mosiah 4:3; Mosiah 5:7). Benjamin will have appointed priests among his people to teach the gospel and remind the people of the oath they had made (Mosiah 6:3).

Upon Alma's arrival in Zarahemla in about 120 BC, he will be authorized by king Mosiah to form branches or "churches" of the one "church of God" throughout "all the land of Zarahemla" and ordain priests to declare Alma's doctrines (Mosiah 25:19-24; Mosiah 26:8-12). Having "power and authority from God" (Alma 5:3) to restore the church in his day, Alma will be acknowledged by the Nephites in the land of Zarahemla as "the founder of their church" and the first presiding high priest (Mosiah 29:42; Mosiah 29:47). According to Mormon, this will be "the first church which was established among them after their transgression" (3 Nephi 5:12; cf. Omni 1:12-13). When the senior Alma dies, the leadership of the church will be assumed by his son Alma (Mosiah 29:42-45). The office of elder will be mentioned for the first time in his administration (Alma 4:7; Alma 6:1). This church will then struggle with apostasy for many decades, but remnants of the church will survive.

3. Whereas there had been a pronounced break between Nephi's original church in the land of Nephi and the multi-branched organization established by Alma throughout the land of Zarahemla, the third church will be described in 3 Nephi 11-26 (at the time of Christ's personal ministry among the Nephites) and will emerge out of Alma's church, which still existed at the time of the great destructions accompanying Jesus's crucifixion (3 Nephi 7:15-26). One dispensation will end and a new one begin. The law of Moses will be fulfilled with Jesus's death (3 Nephi 15:3-5). For the first time, twelve disciples will be appointed to preside over the church (3 Nephi 11:18-22; 3 Nephi 12:1; 3 Nephi 18:36-37). Blood sacrifice will be replaced with a new ordinance, one that Jesus will personally introduce to commemorate his atonement: the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper (3 Nephi 18:1-11). This church will be formally named the Church of Jesus Christ (3 Nephi 27:3-10). It will thrive during the years following Christ's personal appearance to the Nephites at Bountiful, but it will begin to fragment about AD 194 when a "small part" of the people will assume the name Lamanites (4 Nephi 1:20). From then on the church will rapidly deteriorate and ultimately be lost. In AD 360 the prophet Mormon will make one last effort to redeem the church, but his efforts will fail. The Church would not be restored until some fourteen hundred years later.

3 Nevertheless, I speak unto you again; for I am desirous for the welfare of your souls. Yea, mine anxiety is great for you; and ye yourselves know that it ever has been. For I have exhorted you with all diligence; and I have taught you the words of my father; and I have spoken unto you concerning all things which are written, from the creation of the world.

verse 3 "I speak unto you again" In the previous verse Jacob points out to the people of Nephi that he has already "spoken unto [them] exceedingly many things." It is clear that Jacob was a lively and energetic preacher of the gospel.

"all things which are written, from the creation of the world" Jacob is referring here to those things written upon the plates of brass. Jacob was also obviously a serious student of the scriptures.

4 And now, behold, I would speak unto you concerning things which are, and which are to come; wherefore, I will read you the words of Isaiah. And they are the words which my brother has desired that I should speak unto you. And I speak unto you for your sakes, that ye may learn and glorify the name of your God.

verse 4 "I would speak unto you concerning things . . . which are to come" Contrary to the belief of modern biblical scholars, we believe that Isaiah and other prophets were at times granted the privilege of seeing events in the future. Most modern biblical scholars, on the other hand, have developed what might be termed a naturalistic bias. For example, they believe that it cannot be concluded that any event had or has a divine or supernatural cause. They also feel that prophecy can only be interpretive and not predictive. That is, a prophet cannot possibly know, preach, or write in specific terms about an event before it occurs. Such naturalistic thinking has been applied to the Book of Mormon by modern-day scholars. For example Blake Ostler, in order to explain the several specific prophecies of Christ's birth and ministry in the Book of Mormon has developed what he calls the "expansion theory" ("The Book of Mormon as a Modern Expansion of an Ancient Source." Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, [Spring 1987] 20:66-123). He concludes that specific references to Christ and his message must be "expansions" added after the time of Christ. He says, "The Christian motifs in the Book of Mormon require either that a Christian has been at work during some stage of the compilation or that it is Christian in origin." He then concludes that these "expansions must [have] come from Joseph Smith." Those of us committed to the authenticity and integrity, in absolute terms, of the Book of Mormon as an ancient document might well recognize the seeds of apostasy in Ostler's "expansion theory."

"I will read you the words of Isaiah." In this chapter, Jacob quotes Isaiah 49:22-26 (verses 6-7, 16-18). In the next two chapters, 2 Nephi 7-8, Jacob quotes Isaiah 50, 51, and 52:1-2. Then in chapters 9-10 he provides us with a commentary on these writings of Isaiah.

5 And now, the words which I shall read are they which Isaiah spake concerning all the house of Israel; wherefore, they may be likened unto you, for ye are of the house of Israel. And there are many things which have been spoken by Isaiah which may be likened unto you, because ye are of the house of Israel.

verse 5 "Concerning all the house of Israel" We must keep in mind that biblical prophecy is concerned with more than just the Jews. The house of Israel includes the other tribes as well.

Here Jacob confirms the validity of applying the teachings of Old Testament prophets to ourselves, a process called "likening the scriptures," even though those prophets may have been mainly preaching and prophesying to their own people about problems of their own day (see also the commentary for 1 Nephi 19:23).

Jacob also appropriately reminds his listeners that they are a branch of the house of Israel.

verses 6-7 Here Jacob quotes Isaiah 49:22-23.

6 And now, these are the words: Thus saith the Lord God: Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people; and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders.

verse 6 The phrase "I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people" refers to the Lord's delivering the everlasting gospel to the great Gentile nation in the latter days (see the commentary for 1 Nephi 15:13). This great Gentile nation will then take the gospel message to those of the house of Israel-the Lamanites, the Jews, and other scattered Israelites. Scattered Israel, including its sons and daughters, will be nourished and gathered by the Gentiles. This missionary work or gathering is represented by the phrase, "they [the Gentiles] shall bring thy [Israel's] sons in their [the Gentiles'] arms, and thy [Israel's] daughters shall be carried upon their [the Gentiles'] shoulders."

The concept of the "standard" may have had its beginnings as the Israelites were led by Moses from Egypt to Palestine. As the Israelites prepared to march they would gather in ranks or tribes. To aid in this gathering, a representative of each tribe would raise a banner or "standard" high on a pole around which the tribes could rally and quickly find their places (Numbers 2). In like manner, Israel will gather around the standard of the gospel in the latter days.

7 And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers; they shall bow down to thee with their faces towards the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the Lord; for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.

verse 7 There is a sign that awaits the gathering Israelites in the latter days: The very elect and righteous among the "Gentiles" (the "kings" and "queens") will bow down to the Israelites and humbly serve them and teach the gospel to them without shame, for true humility is seen among the disciples of Christ. Hence the verse may be restated: "And the very elect of the Gentiles shall be thy (Israel's) nursing fathers and mothers; they (the very elect of the Gentiles) shall bow down to thee (Israel) with their face towards the earth, and lick up the dust of thy (Israel's) feet; and thou (Israel) shalt know that I am the Lord; for they that wait for (serve and trust in) me (the elect of the Gentiles) shall not be ashamed."

This verse implies the more specific suggestion that some government(s) of the Gentiles will support the effort of gathering the scattered remnants of Israel.

8 And now I, Jacob, would speak somewhat concerning these words. For behold, the Lord has shown me that those who were at Jerusalem, from whence we came, have been slain and carried away captive.

verse 8 Jacob here reports a vision in which the Lord made known to him the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon. Nephi had previously had a similar vision (2 Nephi 1:4; see also 2 Nephi 25:6-10).

Babylon's practice in that day was to forcibly relocate conquered peoples, particularly the upper classes. The mass deportations and relocations were probably based on a belief that persons removed from their homelands and struggling to provide for daily needs elsewhere would be easier to control. A sense of national identity will be weakened in a new land, and national gods were frequently viewed as having power only in their home states, being thus unable to help their people in a foreign environment.

It is notable that the young future prophets Ezekiel and Daniel were among those taken at that time, and soon they will proclaim the Lord's word among their fellow expatriates (e.g., Ezekiel 1:1-3).

During the Exile, Babylonia became a spiritual and intellectual capital of Judahite life. In their new environment, the people reinterpreted their religion in light of new realities: exile from their promised land, the demise of their Davidic rulers, worship without a temple, and eventually religion without prophets. Over the next few centuries, Judaism was born, with such distinctive characteristics as rabbis and rabbinical schools, worship in synagogues, and veneration of the law. The term "Jews" in the modern sense is properly used to designate the people of Judah from the point of the Exile onwards.

After conquering Babylon in 539 BC, king Cyrus of Persia announced to the Babylonian Jews that they could return to their ancestral homeland. Some moved to Judah, now in the Persian empire, but most by then were second-or third-generation citizens of Babylon and chose not to uproot themselves to go to a land that they had never known. Those who did return rebuilt Jerusalem and its temple (Ezra 1-6; Nehemiah 1-7). By the time of Jesus, Jerusalem with its temple had become the Jews' spiritual capital, but two-thirds of the world population of Jews lived outside the land of Israel, and the center of intellectual life was to a large degree in Mesopotamia. Thousands of Jews still live in Mesopotamia (now Iraq) into the twentieth century AD.

"now I, Jacob, would speak somewhat concerning these words" An interesting observation has been made with the word words contained in this phrase and words found in 2 Nephi 33:4. The Printer's Manuscript reads "things" at both locations. All other editions (except the 1830 edition at 2 Nephi 33:4), however, have changed this to read "words." As it turns out, either rendering is a good reading. The Hebrew word from which this word is taken is accurately translated either "things" or "words" (Reexploring the Book of Mormon, edited by John W. Welch, Deseret Book Company and FARMS, 78-79).

While we are discussing the particulars of this verse, it may also be pointed out that the word whence means "from what place." The word from just prior to whence is thus redundant.

9 Nevertheless, the Lord has shown unto me that they should return again. And he also has shown unto me that the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, should manifest himself unto them in the flesh; and after he should manifest himself they should scourge him and crucify him, according to the words of the angel who spake it unto me.

verse 9 "the Lord has shown unto me that they should return again" Jacob also saw in vision the gathering of Israel which followed the Babylonian captivity (for a summary of the "gatherings" and "scatterings" of Israel see the commentary for 1 Nephi 20-22). This gathering occurred in 539 BC when the Babylonian empire was conquered by Cyrus, King of Persia. Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to their ancestral homes.

Jacob was also shown in vision the mortal advent of the Savior.

"according to the words of the angel" We are not given to know this angel's identity.

10 And after they have hardened their hearts and stiffened their necks against the Holy One of Israel, behold, the judgments of the Holy One of Israel shall come upon them. And the day cometh that they shall be smitten and afflicted.

verse 10 "the judgments of the Holy One of Israel shall come upon them" This verse seems to refer to the final scattering of Israel in AD 70 after the Savior's mortal ministry. Some four years previously the Jews had revolted against ruthless Roman leadership. Rome retaliated in force, and in August of AD 70, Jerusalem fell. Hundreds of thousands of its inhabitants were slaughtered or died from the famine incident to the siege, and thousands more were sent to the arena as victims for Roman entertainment, sold into slavery, or forced into exile. The Jerusalem temple was burned to the ground, and Jerusalem itself was leveled. The scattering of Israel was thus complete.

"the day cometh that they shall be smitten and afflicted" From the time of this final scattering the Jews became wanderers, a people without a country, a nation without a home.

11 Wherefore, after they are driven to and fro, for thus saith the angel, many shall be afflicted in the flesh, and shall not be suffered to perish, because of the prayers of the faithful; they shall be scattered, and smitten, and hated; nevertheless, the Lord will be merciful unto them, that when they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer, they shall be gathered together again to the lands of their inheritance.

verse 11 "many shall be afflicted in the flesh, [yet] shall not be suffered to perish" Even though the Lord allows Israel to be scattered and even persecuted, his protective hand will ever remain over them. The prayers of the faithful of Israel shall be instrumental in this protection.

"when they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer, they shall be gathered together again to the lands of their inheritance" Note the plural form of the word "lands." This refers to the final latter-day gathering of Israel in Zion or Palestine in the eastern hemisphere and to Zion the New Jerusalem in the western hemisphere. It is an important principle that no one has the right to return to their covenant lands of inheritance until they have accepted Christ as their Savior and dedicated their lives to the pattern and example he set.

Have the Jews in Palestine today begun "to come to the knowledge of their Redeemer"? President Joseph Fielding Smith made an interesting observation regarding this question:

They have accepted him as one of their great teachers; they have said that, "He is Jew of Jews, the greatest Rabbi of them all," as one has stated it. When the gospel was restored in 1830, if a Jew had mentioned the name of Christ in one of the synagogues, he would have been rebuked. Had a rabbi referred to him, the congregation would have arisen and left the building. And so, we see the sentiment has changed. Now I state this on Jewish authority that they are beginning to believe in Christ, and some of them are accepting the gospel. But in the main they will gather to Jerusalem in their unbelief; the gospel will be preached to them; some of them will believe. Not all of the Gentiles have believed when the gospel has been proclaimed to them, but the great body of the Jews who are there assembled will not receive Christ as their Redeemer until he comes himself and makes himself manifest unto them (Doctrines of Salvation, 3:9).

Thus, the Jews will not fully accept Christ until the onset of the Millennium.

12 And blessed are the Gentiles, they of whom the prophet has written; for behold, if it so be that they shall repent and fight not against Zion, and do not unite themselves to that great and abominable church, they shall be saved; for the Lord God will fulfil his covenants which he has made unto his children; and for this cause the prophet has written these things.

verse 12 "blessed are the Gentiles" Review the role of the Gentiles (non-Jews) in the latter days in the commentary for verses 6-7 above.

"The prophet" in both instances in this verse is Isaiah.

"that great and abominable church" This is the entity described by Elder Bruce R. McConkie: "the world; it is all the carnality and evil to which fallen man is heir, it is every unholy and wicked practice; it is every false religion, every supposed system of salvation which does not actually save and exalt man in the highest heaven of the celestial world. It is every church except the true church, whether parading under a Christian or a pagan banner" (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:552). It is especially anyone who makes war against the saints.

"they shall be saved" The word "saved" here probably does not refer to exaltation. More is required for exaltation than simply failing to fight against Zion. This promise which the Lord has extended to those who "shall repent and fight not against Zion" is not exaltation but rather an assurance that they will not be destroyed when the wicked perish. Today, we know that they will inherit a kingdom of eternal glory.

"the Lord God will fulfil his covenants . . . and for this cause the prophet has written these things" God will fulfil his covenants, and that it why Isaiah wrote of them.

13 Wherefore, they that fight against Zion and the covenant people of the Lord shall lick up the dust of their feet; and the people of the Lord shall not be ashamed. For the people of the Lord are they who wait for him; for they still wait for the coming of the Messiah.

verse 13 "they that fight against Zion and the covenant people of the Lord shall lick up the dust of their feet" It is easy to misread the first sentence of this verse. It speaks of those who fight against two things: (1) Zion, and (2) the covenant people of the Lord. This verse suggests that the day will come when those who have fought against Zion and against God's covenant people will voluntarily or involuntarily humble themselves abjectly before the chosen people of the Lord.

"the people of the Lord shall not be ashamed" Those who are truly the Lord's people will never be ashamed of their Lord.

14 And behold, according to the words of the prophet, the Messiah will set himself again the second time to recover them; wherefore, he will manifest himself unto them in power and great glory, unto the destruction of their enemies, when that day cometh when they shall believe in him; and none will he destroy that believe in him.

verse 14 "The prophet," again, is Isaiah.

"the Messiah will set himself again the second time to recover them" This refers to the second gathering of Israel. The classification of the "gatherings" of Israel is somewhat variable from place to place in the scriptures (see the commentary for 2 Nephi 20-22). In this verse the original gathering of Israel to the land of Palestine under the leadership of Moses and Joshua is ignored as the first gathering. It seems to be assumed that the first took place following the Babylonian captivity. Some have even suggested that the time of Christ's mortal ministry constituted a "gathering." After all, the keys of gathering were given by Moses to Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration at that time. Certainly this was an attempted gathering when the Lord "set his hand" to gather Israel. It turned out to be, however, a gathering that did not quite succeed. This second gathering, then, is that which is occurring in this latter day and is now in progress as Israel gathers to the gospel and to the stakes of Zion.

"he will manifest himself unto them in power and great glory, unto the destruction of their enemies" This refers to the great destructive cleansing of the earth prior to the Savior's second coming. This destruction occurs during the "second gathering" described here in this verse. This destruction is described in the following verse.

"when that day cometh when they shall believe in him; and none will he destroy that believe in him" Some people will be spared in the great destruction in the latter days. We learned in verse 12 of this chapter that those spared in the final cleansing of the earth are those who do not fight against Zion-those of both celestial and terrestrial ilk.

15 And they that believe not in him shall be destroyed, both by fire, and by tempest, and by earthquakes, and by bloodsheds, and by pestilence, and by famine. And they shall know that the Lord is God, the Holy One of Israel.

verse 15 This verse describes the fate of those who were part of the great and abominable church, those who war against Zion in the latter days.

verses 16-18 Here Jacob quotes from Isaiah 49:24-26.

16 For shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered?

verse 16 The speaker in this verse is Israel herself. The "prey" is also Israel, and the "mighty" symbolizes Israel's captors throughout her long dispersion. All of this prophecy on the gathering of Israel seems too much to believe. Therefore, Israel asks, "Is it really possible to free imprisoned Israel from her captors?"

17 But thus saith the Lord: Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered; for the Mighty God shall deliver his covenant people. For thus saith the Lord: I will contend with them that contendeth with thee-

verse 17 The Lord reassures Israel that not only is it possible, it will be done! The "mighty" and the "terrible" are scattered Israel's oppressors. The Lord will "contend with them."

18 And I will feed them that oppress thee, with their own flesh; and they shall be drunken with their own blood as with sweet wine; and all flesh shall know that I the Lord am thy Savior and thy Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.

verse 18 Isaiah comments upon the fate of those who war against the Israelites in the last days. Those Israelites spoken of here are those who have been converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ and have thus learned of their own true identity and their proper place in the chosen or royal family. The fate of those who contend against Israel is graphically described, "I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh; they shall be drunken with their own blood as with sweet wine." The specific meaning of these phrases is given by Nephi in 1 Nephi 22:13: Those who afflict Israel shall eventually become internally divided and make destructive war upon each other.

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