COVENANT – JUDAH
While the actions of Rebekah and Jacob are rightfully frowned upon, the inappropriate actions of Isaac seem to be overlooked. Yet he finally accepted that God had chosen Jacob over Esau for the Abrahamic blessing.
Jacob obtained both the birthright and the Abrahamic blessing. But to escape his brother’s vengeance, he went to Haran for a while.
Although Jacob desired the right things, he tried to get them the wrong way. God did not approve of his deception - Jacob faced unintended consequences as a result of his deception.
It is not enough to turn from sin – restitution must be made. After God dealt with Jacob, he made restitution to Esau – on his return from Haran.
Jacob would have 12 sons whose descendants would become the tribes of Israel.
That the birthright and Abrahamic blessing are separate is again reinforced by the case of Jacob’s sons. Joseph received the birthright but the Abrahamic blessing (all nations blessed by his seed) went to Judah – through whom Christ came.
1 Chron 5:1-2 (NASB) Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel (for he was the firstborn, but because he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph the son of Israel; so that he is not enrolled in the genealogy according to the birthright. Though Judah prevailed over his brothers, and from him came the leader, yet the birthright belonged to Joseph)
From Judah came the leader – referring initially to David but ultimately to the Messiah – the Son of David.
THE BLESSING AND THE BIRTHRIGHT
Although Joseph was the eleventh son, he had already assumed leadership by rescuing the family from famine.
Part of the birthright entailed being the family’s spiritual leader. Joseph had proven his godly character by his behaviour when Potiphar’s wife attempted to seduce him.
Not only does he display great spiritual insight by his ability to interpret dreams accurately, he later demonstrates Christlike forgiveness to his brothers who had wronged him. There is also no indication that he sought revenge on Potiphar and his wife once he came into a position of authority over them. Twice he has a perfect opportunity to get revenge but chooses not to do so.
In God’s eyes. the birthright is not automatic and the leader of the family in the previous generation needs to officially confer it on a person in the form of a blessing. Thus Jacob confers the birthright on Joseph, making
him the leader in his generation, after
taking that right away from Reuben.
Your father’s blessings are
greater than the blessings
of the ancient mountains,
than the bounty of the
age-old hills. Let all
these rest on the head
of Joseph, on the
brow of the prince
among his brothers.
Hence the 2 dominant tribes would become Judah (the recipient of the Abrahamic blessing) and “Joseph” (the recipient of the birthright). At times the Bible refers to the 12 tribes of Israel as “the house of Judah” and “the house of Joseph” – after the 2 leading tribes.
Zech 10:6 (ESV) “I will
strengthen the house of
Judah, and I will save the
house of Joseph. I will
bring them back
because I have
compassion on them…”
But then Joseph had two sons
(Manasseh and Ephraim) from
his Egyptian wife, Asenath.
Gen 48:1-2 (NIV) Some time later Joseph was told, “Your father is ill.” So he took his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim along with him. When Jacob was told, “Your son Joseph has come to you,” Israel rallied his strength and sat up on the bed.
Israel (Jacob) “adopts” them as his own sons and splits the future tribe of Joseph into 2 tribes.
Gen 48:5-6 (NIV) “Now then, your two sons born to you in Egypt before I came to you here will be reckoned as mine; Ephraim and Manasseh will be mine, just as Reuben and Simeon are mine. Any children born to you after them will be yours; in the territory they inherit they will be reckoned under the names of their brothers.”
MANASSEH & EPHRAIM
Gen 48:8-12 (NIV) When Israel saw the sons of Joseph, he asked, “Who are these?”
“They are the sons God has given me here,” Joseph said to his father. Then Israel said, “Bring them to me so I may bless them.”
Now Israel’s eyes were failing because of old age, and he could hardly see. So Joseph brought his sons close to him, and his father kissed them and embraced them. Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children too.” Then Joseph removed them from Israel’s knees and bowed down with his face to the ground.
Gen 48:13-16 (NIV) And Joseph took both of
them, Ephraim on his right toward Israel’s left
hand and Manasseh on his left toward Israel’s
right hand, and brought them close to him.
But Israel reached out his right hand and put it
on Ephraim’s head, though he was the younger,
and crossing his arms, he put his left hand on
Manasseh’s head, even though Manasseh was
the firstborn. Then he blessed Joseph and said,
“May the God before whom my fathers Abraham
and Isaac walked faithfully, the God who has been
0my shepherd all my life to this day, the Angel who has delivered me from all harm —may he bless these boys. May they be called by my name and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac, and may they increase greatly on the earth.”
Manasseh was the elder son and by worldly
customs - should have received the birthright.
But when Jacob bestows his blessing upon his
grandsons, he crosses his hands, much to
Joseph’s consternation, placing his right hand
on the younger son and his left on the elder.
Gen 48:17-19a (NIV) When Joseph
saw his father placing his right
hand on Ephraim’s head he was
displeased; so he took hold of his
father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s
head to Manasseh’s head. Joseph said to
him, “No, my father, this one is the firstborn;
put your right hand on his head.” But his father
refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He
too will become a people, and he too will become great.”
Gen 48:19b-20 (NIV) Nevertheless, his younger brother will be greater than he, and his descendants will become a group of nations. He blessed them that day and said, “In your name will Israel pronounce this blessing: ‘May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.’ ” So he put Ephraim ahead of Manasseh.
In this way, Ephraim, albeit the younger son, received the greater blessing. Hence the tribe of Joseph would be split into 2 tribes, Ephraim and Manasseh, with Ephraim (the recipient of the birthright of Joseph) being the dominant tribe. Later the 10 Northern tribes of Israel would be corporately referred to as Ephraim, while the 2 Southern tribes (Judah and Benjamin) would be referred to as Judah.
Zech 9:13 (ESV) For I have bent Judah as my bow; I have made Ephraim its arrow. I will stir up your sons, O Zion, against your sons, O Greece, and wield you like a warrior’s sword.
JUDAH & EPHRAIM
Hence when Ezekiel prophesies the reunification of the tribes in the end times, he refers to them as Ephraim and Judah.
Ezek 37:16-17 (ESV) “Son of man, take a stick and write
on it, ‘For Judah, and the people of Israel associated with him’; then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph (the stick of Ephraim) and all the house of Israel associated with him.’ And join them one to another into one stick, that they may become one in your hand.
While Joseph receives the most attention in the Genesis account, the destiny of humanity was tied to a different son - Judah. Ultimately the salvation of the world would come from his lineage.
Through Judah would come the line of kings and a nation in its own right, with the terms “Judea”, “Jew” and “Judaism” being derived from his name. So, in the story of Joseph, Moses takes a few detours to relate the account of Judah.
In the first accounts of Judah, there is no sign that any of these wonders would be from his line and life. Judah becomes an example of repentance and redemption, and an image of the ultimate redemption that was to come. *
As the fourth son… Judah was not of any particular prominence in the family line according to Hebrew tradition. He would not have the privileges of being the first-born, nor would he have the special love from his father that was given to Joseph and Benjamin. As with the other brothers, this feeling of unfairness amongst the siblings grew into bitter jealousy. *
Prompted by this jealousy, Joseph’s brothers (probably instigated by Simeon and Levi) planned to murder him and try cover the crime.
Gen 37:17-20 (NIV) … So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him. “Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other. “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.”
Despite being the eldest, rather than confronting his brothers, Reuben suggests throwing Joseph into a pit with the intention of freeing him later.
Gen 37:21-24 (NIV) … When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. “Let’s not take his life,” he said. “Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him.” Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father. So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the ornate robe he was wearing—and they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it.
It was Judah who then suggested sparing Joseph’s life by rather selling him into slavery.
Gen 39:26-27 (NIV) Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed.
While this was also a terrible thing to do, this incident does at least indicate that Judah (and Reuben) never had the violent tendencies of Simeon and Levi.
Later on, Judah broke faith with his family by marrying a Canaanite.
Gen 38:2 (NKJV) And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua, and he married her …
He raised such wicked sons that God put two of them (Er and Onan) to death (38:7, 10). This does not reflect too well upon his parenting skills.
JUDAH’S SINFUL YOUTH
Then, again in contravention of patriarchal custom, Judah failed to provide a husband and thus an heir and provider to his daughter-in-law, Tamar.
He also is guilty of sexual impropriety by unwittingly sleeping with Tamar when she resorts to posing as a prostitute.
When he remarks that the pregnant Tamar should be punished - only to discover that he is the father, Judah is convicted by her actions (indirectly caused by him) and big enough to recognize his sin.
Gen 38:26 (ESV) Then Judah identified them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” …
As Judah acknowledges his sin, from here on he is presented in a different light.
The transformation of Judah and his rise to leadership amongst his brothers becomes apparent when looking at the way Reuben and Judah react to the demand to bring Benjamin to Egypt. Reuben was the oldest son of the first wife. By man’s law and logic, he should have been the natural leader and heir apparent. However, when Jacob mourns at possibly losing Benjamin, Reuben makes a strange offer. *
Gen 42:36-37 (ESV) And Jacob their father said to them, “You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin. All this has come against me.” Then Reuben said to his father, “Kill my two sons if I do not bring him back to you. Put him in my hands, and I will bring him back to you.”
Instead of putting his own life on the line, Reuben offers up his own sons. He stakes the lives of two uninvolved children, instead of assuming responsibility and taking all the risk himself.
Jacob rejects this offer. While part of the reason for the rejection may be because he was not ready to let Benjamin go, it can also be inferred that he did not trust Reuben to bring the young man back alive. *
Eventually, Jacob had to relent or the whole family would have starved. Here, Judah steps up and takes Reuben’s role as the leader. When they go back, they know they must take Benjamin with them. *
Gen 43:8-9 (ESV) And Judah said to Israel his father, “Send the boy with me, and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, both we and you and also our little ones. I will be a pledge of his safety. From my hand you shall require him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever.”
Where Reuben offered his sons as a ransom, Judah offered himself. He accepted full responsibility for the price of his brother’s life. *
On their return to Egypt, Joseph tests his brothers to see if they had changed.
He deliberately frames Benjamin for an imaginary crime – accusing him of theft because of a silver cup that had been planted in his belongings. Joseph then claimed Benjamin as a slave as punishment.
Joseph then demands that they return home to Isaac without Benjamin.
At this point, Judah emerges as the brother’s spokesman.
What gave Judah the right to take on this role? The intercession he makes to Joseph clearly shows him to be a changed man.
In these passages Judah acts as an intercessor, speaking for his family ... He then becomes the substitute, the surety that a debt will be paid. These characteristics foreshadow the role of Jesus Christ as the intercessor for mankind, and the substitute on the cross, who paid the debt humanity owed to the Creator...
Judah seems to have been very moved by his father’s grief over the loss of Joseph, so much so that he again offers himself to take the punishment that was seemingly due to Benjamin - in order that his father, Jacob would not be further grieved.
Gen 39:27-29 (NIV) “Your servant my father said to us, ‘You know that my wife bore me two sons. One of them went away from me, and I said, “He has surely been torn to pieces.” And I have not seen him since. If you take this one from me too and harm comes to him, you will bring my gray head down to the grave in misery.’
Gen 39:30-31 (NIV) “So now, if the boy is not with us when I go back to your servant my father, and if my father, whose life is closely bound up with the boy’s life, sees that the boy isn’t there, he will die. Your servants will bring the gray head of our father down to the grave in sorrow. Your servant guaranteed the boy’s safety to my father.”
The punishment that Judah offers to bear instead of Benjamin is slavery – the very thing that he had earlier suggested that Joseph be sold into.
Gen 39:32-34 (NIV) I said, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, I will bear the blame before you, my father, all my life!’ Now then, please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers. How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? No! Do not let me see the misery that would come on my father.”
He exhibited unexpected compassion in telling of the family’s heart-wrenching experience of starvation, of his father’s undying love for Benjamin, and of Judah’s own promise to his father that he would bring Benjamin back home, lest Jacob literally die from grief. Then, in an ultimate expression of compassion, Judah offered to substitute himself in place of Benjamin! He proposed that he be retained in Egypt for the rest of his life as the governor’s slave if only the governor would let Benjamin go home to his father (Gen. 44:33-34). *
Joseph clearly sees the change in Judah, and it was this gesture that caused Joseph to cease testing his brothers, to reveal his identity, and to weep “so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it”. (Gen 45:1-2)
What brought about the transformation in Judah since his youth?
In the interim he had lost his wife and 2 of his sons. It was his attempts to save the life of his third and last son that he withheld him from marrying Tamar.
Maybe this was what allowed him to understand and empathize with his father, Jacob, in his grief over a lost child. Maybe personal tragedy was the spark that began a profound transformation in his attitude.
Sometimes God allows things to happen in our lives which enable us to be more compassionate and understanding towards others.
While a birthright normally belonged to the firstborn son, anyone could receive a blessing. All of Jacob’s sons received some sort of blessing or pronouncement of destiny. In the Dispensation of Promise, such patriarchal blessings acted as a “last will and testament” and were regarded as a means of revealing God’s will.
While Reuben was the firstborn, he was disqualified from the birthright and blessing due to his instability and because he dishonoured his father by sleeping with his concubine, Bilhah.
Gen 35:22 (ESV) While Israel lived in that land, Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine. And Israel heard of it…
Gen 49:3-4 (ESV) “Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, and the firstfruits of my strength, preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power. Unstable as water, you shall not have preeminence, because you went up to your father’s bed; then you defiled it—he went up to my couch!”
But what about the second and third sons,
Simeon and Levi? They had been responsible
for the slaughter at Shechem (an act of
revenge for their sister’s rape) which Jacob
also disapproved of. When blessing his sons,
they instead receive a rebuke.
Gen 49:5-7 (ESV) “Simeon and Levi are
brothers; weapons of violence are their swords.
Let my soul come not into their council; O my glory, be not joined
to their company. For in their anger they killed men, and in their wilfulness they hamstrung oxen. Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce, and their wrath, for it is cruel! I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel.”
SIMEON & LEVI
Based on their track record, it may well have been Simeon and Levi who suggested killing Joseph. Interestingly when Joseph chooses to keep one of the brothers as a prisoner – he selects Simeon. (Joseph now also realizes that years ago Reuben had tried to restrain them.)
Gen 42:22 (NIV) Reuben replied, “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn’t listen! Now we must give an accounting for his blood.” They did not realize that Joseph could understand them, since he was using an interpreter. He turned away from them and began to weep, but then came back and spoke to them again. He had Simeon taken from them and bound before their eyes.
It may well have been Simeon and Levi who suggested killing Joseph. Interestingly when Joseph chooses to keep one of the brothers as a prisoner – he selects Simeon.
Gen 49:5-7 (ESV) “Simeon and Levi are brothers; weapons of violence are their swords. Let my soul come not into their council; O my glory, be not joined to their company. For in their anger they killed men, and in their wilfulness they hamstrung oxen. Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce, and their wrath, for it is cruel! I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel.”
Judah was the fourth son of Jacob and Leah. Despite growing up in one circumstance, he renounces his youthful wickedness, and now surpasses his brothers in his father’s eyes. Jacob
blesses him, showing that he will have
a position of prominence. Judah (Yehudah) means “praise”.
Gen 49:8 (NASB) “As for
you, Judah, your brothers shall praise you; Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; Your father’s sons shall bow down to you.”
The Lion of the tribe of Judah is a symbol found in the first and last book of the Bible. In Genesis, Jacob refers to Judah as a lion.
Gen 49:9 (NASB) Judah is a
lion’s cub; From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He crouches, he lies down as a lion, And as a lion, who dares to stir him up?
Based on Jacob’s blessing, the lion became a symbol of the tribe of Judah - the kingly tribe of David – with the royal capital in Jerusalem.
The Lion of Judah was used as a Jewish symbol for many years, and as Jerusalem was the capital of the Kingdom of Judah, in 1950 it was included in the Emblem of Jerusalem. *
EMBLEM OF JERUSALEM
In Revelation, this symbol is seen again when the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Christ) is declared to have triumphed and is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals.
Rev 5:5 (NIV) Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
THE LION OF THE
TRIBE OF JUDAH
Both of the genealogies in Matthew and Luke record that Jesus is a descendant of the tribe of Judah. When Jesus is revealed as the promised Lion of the tribe of Judah, it reveals His deity. He is the true king and the One to whom belongs the long-awaited obedience of nations. Yet it is not His fierceness or the force of His power that makes Him worthy. The Lion has triumphed because He became a Lamb (Rev 5:6–10; cf. John 1:29). *
Jesus Christ is worthy because He lived a perfect, sinless life and in shedding His blood defeated sin and death. His death and resurrection have resulted in a protection for His people and an eternal kingdom that will honour and worship God. Ruling this kingdom will be Jesus, the Lion of the tribe of Judah.
Lions symbolize power, fierceness, and majesty. Lions are the king of the beasts, and the Lion of the tribe of Judah is the king of everything. In the Old Testament, God is sometimes described as being like a lion. In Isaiah 31:4, just “as a lion growls, a great lion over its prey—and though a whole band of shepherds is called together against it, it is not frightened by their shouts… so the LORD Almighty will come down to do battle on Mount Zion and on its heights.” *
Inspired by the Lion of Judah, C. S. Lewis used a lion named Aslan to represent Jesus in The Chronicles of Narnia. *
The account of Judah reminds us that God is able to accomplish his purpose and bring his blessings to the world through deeply flawed people.
But we must be willing to continually repent of the evil we do and turn to God for transformation, even if we are never perfectly purged of our errors, weaknesses, and sins in this life. *
Contrary to the values of the societies around Israel, the willingness of leaders to offer themselves in sacrifice for the sins of others was intended to be a signature trait of leadership among the people of God. *
When Israel sinned by worshipping the golden calf, Moses demonstrates this same self-sacrifice we see in Judah.
Exod 32:31-32 (NIV) So Moses went back to the Lord and said, “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.”
Likewise, David would demonstrate it:
2 Sam 24:17 (NIV) When David saw the angel who was striking down the people, he said to the LORD, “I have sinned; I, the shepherd, have done wrong. These are but sheep. What
done? Let your
hand fall on
me and my
Then Jesus, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, shows his self-sacrificial love:
John 10:11-13 (NIV) “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.”
The blessings of Judah in Genesis 49:8 are fulfilled in his greatest descendant, Christ – the Lion of the tribe of Judah.
It is said of him, “your brothers shall praise you; Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; Your father’s sons shall bow down to you.” This position of leadership among his brothers refers not only to the kings of Israel but to the Messiah – the ultimate leader who would arise from the tribe of Judah.
Spurgeon: “The dying patriarch was speaking of his own son Judah; but while speaking of Judah he had a special eye to our Lord, who sprang from the tribe of Judah. Everything therefore which he says of Judah, the type, he means with regard to our greater Judah, the antitype, our Lord Jesus Christ”
In a Messianic prophecy, Balaam had earlier prophesied:
Num 24:17 (ESV) I see him, but not now; I behold
him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob,
and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel…
The sceptre was then prophesied by Jacob to belong to Judah:
Gen 49:10 (NASB) “The sceptre will not depart from Judah,
Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes …”
“The sceptre — The dominion or government, which is expressed by
this word, because it was an ensign of government.” (Benson)
Initially fulfilled by the royal line of David, it would find its ultimate fulfilment in Jesus.
Isa 9:6 (NKJV) For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder…
One of Judah’s twin sons by Tamar – namely Perez - would become the next in the long line that would eventually culminate in the birth of Jesus Christ.
Matt 1:1-3 (NIV) This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron…
Gen 49:10 (NKJV) The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people.
According to Strong's Concordance, ‘Shiloh’ is “perhaps ‘he whose it is,’ a Messianic title”. The NIV renders it, “until he to whom it belongs shall come” while the ESV says, “until tribute comes to him”. This is prophetic of Christ who will ultimately rule in the Millennial kingdom and “and the obedience of the nations shall be his” (NIV).
UNTIL SHILOH COMES
Ezek 21:27 is generally acknowledged as a reference to Genesis 49:10
(NASB) A ruin, a ruin, a ruin, I will make it. This also will be no more until He comes whose right it is, and I will give it to Him.’
And Paul (Galatians 3:19) refers to it in the words, “Until the seed come to whom it is promised,” where the latter words seem to be a free rendering of the phrase in the LXX., “for whom it is laid up.” - Ellicott's
The Targum of Onkelos paraphrases, “Until Messiah come, whose is the kingdom; and him shall the peoples obey.”
The passage has always been regarded as Messianic, not merely by Christians, but by the Jews, all whose ancient writers, including the Talmud, explain the name Shiloh, or Sheloh, of the Messiah. But the Targum of Onkelos would of itself be a sufficient proof, as we have there not the opinions or knowledge of one man, but the traditional explanation of the Pentateuch, handed down orally from the time of Ezra, and committed to writing probably in the first century of the Christian era. – (Ellicott)
Judah’s life provides an example of how God can transform and use anybody for His purpose. From a worldly perspective, Judah was an unimportant son who grew into a callous teenager, and a poor father. *
God used his sinful and lustful act of sleeping with a woman he believed to be a prostitute to convict him of his unrighteousness. *
Not only did that act begin the line of Christ, but it is the moment that Judah became a godlier man. *
No man is beyond God’s reach, beyond God’s hope, and through Judah’s descendent, mankind has the promise of salvation and everlasting life. *
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The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
The New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
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