What Do You Make of Psalm 82:1

Discussion in 'OT Wisdom Literature' started by Ed Walsh, Sep 17, 2019.

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  1. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior


    What is Psalm 82:1 all about? Are the "gods" powerful angles like we meet in Danial 10:11-21? Where an unnamed good angel does battle with the "prince of the kingdom of Persia" for 21 days before he was relieved by Michael, "one of the chief princes" and was finally able to come to aid Daniel.
    Psalm 82:1 (ESV)
    God (elohim) has taken his place in the divine council;
    in the midst of the gods (elohim) he holds judgment:

    Psalm 82:1 (NIV)
    God presides in the great assembly;
    he renders judgment among the "gods":

    Psalm 81:1 (Lexham Septuagint)
    God (ho theos) stood in the assembly of the gods (theos),
    and in the middle he judges the gods (theos).

    Similar to Job 21:22
  2. Romans922

    Romans922 Puritan Board Professor

    Members of the civil magistrate (e.g. judges) that must bow the knee to Christ, King of kings, God of gods, Ruler of rulers, Lord of lords...lest they perish (Ps. 2). He is King over the Church and all nations. This is the meaning of Daniel, and this Psalm.

    These gods are those v2 that are judging unjustly and showing partiality.

    The same for v6-7, they will be judged for their injustices, just like the princes/kings of the earth.

    V8, who inherits the nations? Christ, who is God, judge of the earth.
  3. JennyGeddes

    JennyGeddes Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks for bringing this up, Mr. Walsh. I was reading through this Psalm just the other night and wondered a bit myself.
  4. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    You said pretty much what I always thought, except for verse one. There seems to be a disconnect between the first verse and the rest of the Psalm.
    But I could easily be corrected. Thanks for your quick reply.

  5. Romans922

    Romans922 Puritan Board Professor

    I'm not sure the disconnect you are thinking of...

    V1 and 8 seems to be saying similar things. V1 that God judges the gods/judges, v8 a call upon God to judge the gods/judges.
  6. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    In John 10:34-36, Jesus cites the Psalm 82 use of the word gods to get out of the charge that he has blasphemed by calling himself the Son of God. Of course, he is actually God, but that's not how he makes his defense in this case. He argues that Scripture sometimes refers to mere men by calling them gods.

    This settles the issue in my mind. The Psalm is speaking of human rulers, probably kings. "In the midst of the gods he holds judgment." Substitute kings for gods, and you get a familiar biblical theme. It also fits the description of the "gods" given in the rest of the psalm. They judge unjustly and show partiality. They ought to be giving justice to the weak. They shall die and fall like any prince. It all sounds like human rulers to me.

    Could it instead be a reference to the divine council, similar to what is mentioned in Job 1? If it weren't for Jesus' comments, that would be a sensible option too, although it doesn't fit as well with the rest of the psalm.

    What about false gods, or an undeveloped view of God that still acknowledges some form of polytheism? That's what the critical scholars might have us believe. But that is the least sensible option in every way: when we look at the rest of the context of Psalm 82, and when we look at the one-God emphasis throughout the rest of the Old Testament, and when we look at Jesus' use of that psalm. Context, context, context.
  7. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    I think I agree with you and Jack. But I was getting the idea that verse 1 was saying something like this:

    God "has taken his place in the divine council" and judges among "rulers, the authorities," the "cosmic powers, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places"--I.e., the elohim (Ephesians 6:12) Is God making a greater-to-lesser comparison? Hey, you so-called gods. You are mere men of "flesh and blood," don't you know that I judge among the "rulers and authorities" in heavenly places?
    Below the Scripture verses is what The Reformation Study Bible says. They end up saying verse 1 and 6 are talking about the same thing. I.e., human rulers. They agree with you two. But they don't get there without noticing the unusual wording of verse one. I have a concern that modern men, Christians included, live in a less magical, less angel filled world than the Bible authors. The Bible writers looked at the world differently than we often are able to do, and they are the ones that Yahway chose to breathe out the Scriptures to knowing they would write according to their worldview. Jesus lived in that world, and He understood and saw things we do not.

    Matthew 16:23
    But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me:

    Luke 10:18
    And he said to them, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.

    The Reformation Study Bible
    on Psalm 82

    This short psalm presents some difficult problems. Chief among them is the “gods” mentioned in vv. 1, 6. A number of scholars take this as a reference to angelic powers, lesser spiritual beings who make up God’s heavenly council. A second interpretation understands “gods” literally, as deities made subordinate to Yahweh. The most probable interpretation is that the “gods” are human judges.

    Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 928). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2019
  8. Poimen

    Poimen Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    The law itself speaks of judges as "gods." Exodus 22:8 & 28. AV vs. 8: "If the thief be not found, then the master of the house shall be brought unto the judges (elohim), to see whether he have put his hand unto his neighbour's goods." AV vs. 28 is even clearer due to the parallelism of the second part: "Thou shalt not revile the gods (elohim), nor curse the ruler of thy people."

    Verse 1 portrays God's rule over/amongst his church/state, particularly those appointed to oversee the rule of law. When we compare this to the vision of Christ among the lampstands in Revelation, we get a powerful picture of God's own judicial, overseeing presence in the judgments of officebearers on behalf of the affected congregants.
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2019
  9. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    Thanks for adding. You're probably right. I just got stuck wondering about verse 1

    I thought this was interesting:
    • In the KJV 'elohim' is translated as 'judge' 5 times, as 'god' 244 times, as 'God' 2,346 times. [approximate]
    Still thinking.


  10. Scottish Presbyterian

    Scottish Presbyterian Puritan Board Freshman

    Using the term "divine council" seems to be taking a degree of interpretive latitude with translation, maybe that's what is throwing you?

    I like to think of it as when a human court meets (e.g. our parliament, or law courts) then God is present and passing judgment on those who are sitting as judges. I can see how if the text said "divine council" this would seem a stretched interpretation, but I dont think it does.
  11. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    I don't want to belabor this issue because so far everyone has said that I am wrong in my idea that Divine Council is just that. Do you remember in the original post I said it made me think of Daniel 10 where we learned that there are apparently good and bad Angelic beings that are assigned to particular Nations that do battle with one another--good vs. evil. And also in Job 1:6 and following, we see another case of a Divine Council where the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord. These are the two instances that I know have some heavenly meaning that made me wonder about Psalm 82:1. Also, I have said that only verse 1 may have anything to do with this. But I'm going to get on with my life with another verse that I am just not settled on its meaning.
    Thanks for your input and may God bless you.
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2019
  12. Charles Johnson

    Charles Johnson Puritan Board Freshman

    The presentation of the sons of God in Job 1 is an allegory for God's omniscient searching of all things and his decree of permission for the things that happened to Job. It seems very unlikely that if even regenerate man, on account of his remaining sin, cannot see God, Satan, the very father of lies, would have unimpeded physical access to the glorious dwelling place of God.
  13. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    In everything I said so far, I've tried to remain humble and teachable because I too see this as a rather strange and unlikely interpretation of Ps 82:1. But in Job at least, you seem 100% confident that your interpretation of the Divine Council is an allegory is correct. Although you may have a majority opinion in your favor, the assurance that you are right seems to be just a little presumptuous. There are dozens of mysteries similar to this in the Bible, and I have noticed that modern theologians tend to have a practical or rationalistic answer for each one. We are all products of our present culture and have trouble thinking the way people in other times thought. If you were on a boat in heavy seas at night and saw what looked like a man walking on water, what would your first thought be? Would you be troubled and say like the disciples, "it is a spirit," and cry out in fear? (Matthew 14:26) I have come to believe that the invisible world is much more involved in our day-to-day lives then we moderns tend to consider. What about the account I mentioned in Daniel 10. Is that an allegory too?

    @iainduguid - Help! I need you if you get some time.
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2019
  14. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    I’ve never before heard that Satan’s appearance before God is an allegory. What emminent theologian has ever said that?
  15. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    In Job, Satan is not included among the sons of God, but is presented as an intrusion.

    The idea that Job 1 is a "parabolical expression" of the truth is not new.

    Matthew Poole
    The sons of God, i.e. the holy angels, so called Job 38:7 Daniel 3:25,28, because of their creation by God, as Adam also was, Luke 3:38, and for their great resemblance of him in power, and dignity, and holiness, and for their filial affection and obedience to him.

    Before the Lord, i.e. before his throne, to receive his commands, and to give him an account of their negotiations. Compare 1 Kings 22:19 Zechariah 4:14 Luke 1:19. But you must not think that these things were really done, and that Satan was mixed with the holy angels, or admitted into the presence of God in heaven, to maintain such discourses as this with the blessed God, or that he had formal commission and leave to do what follows; but it is only a parabolical representation of that great truth, that God by his wise and holy providence doth govern all the actions of men and devils to his own ends; it being usual with the great God to condescend to our shallow capacities, and to express himself, as the Jews phrase it, in the language of the sons of men, i.e. in such manner as men use to speak and may understand.

    Satan came also among them; being forced to come, and give up his account.

    Geneva Bible
    Now there was a day when the {k} sons of God came to present themselves {l} before the LORD, and Satan {m} came also among them.

    (k) Meaning the angels, who are called the sons of God because they are willing to execute his will.

    (l) Because our infirmity cannot comprehend God in his majesty, he is set forth to us as a King, that our capacity may be able to understand that which is spoken of him.

    (m) This declares that although Satan is an adversary to God, yet he is compelled to obey him, and do him all homage, without whose permission and appointment he can do nothing.

    The idea that the "gods" in verse 1 of Psalm 82 are human judges is also not new.

    Geneva Bible
    The prophet shows that if princes and judges do not do their duty, God whose authority is above them will take vengeance on them.

    It is unquestionably a very unbecoming thing for those whom God has been pleased to invest with the government of mankind for the common good, not to acknowledge the end for which they have been exalted above others, nor yet by whose blessing they have been placed in so elevated a station; but instead of doing this, contemning every principle of equity, to rule just as their own unbridled passions dictate. So infatuated are they by their own splendor and magnificence, as to imagine that the whole world was made only for them. Besides, they think that it would derogate from their elevated rank were they to be governed by moderate counsels; and although their own folly is more than enough to urge them on in their reckless career, they, notwithstanding, seek for flatterers to soothe and applaud them in their vices. To correct this arrogance, the psalm opens by asserting, that although men occupy thrones and judgment-seats, God nevertheless continues to hold the office of supreme ruler.

    Matthew Poole
    "This Psalm contains an admonition, either,

    1. To the chief rulers of Israel, whether judges or kings, or their great council called the Sanhedrim. Or rather,

    2. To all the rulers of the several nations of the world, to whom this word might come; as may be gathered, partly from the expressions here used, which are general, and not peculiar to the governors of Israel, and therefore not rashly and unnecessarily to be restrained; and partly from the last verse, where he mentions the whole earth and all nations as concerned in the contents of this Psalm."

    "By gods, or the mighty, he understands kings, or other chief rulers, who are so called, because they have their power and commission from God, and act as his deputies, in his name and stead, and must give an account to him of all their actions. And by their congregation he understands not a convention or assembly of such persons which seldom meet together, but either,

    1. All congregations or assemblies of people in which magistrates sit to execute justice. Or,

    2. All persons whatsoever of this high and sacred order or number; for the Hebrew word here rendered

    congregation doth not always signify an assembly of persons met together in one place, but sometimes notes all the particular persons of or belonging to such a sort and body of men, though dispersed in divers places, as Psalm 26:5, I have hated the congregation of evil-doers, i.e. all evil-doers; Proverbs 21:16, he shall remain in the congregation of the dead, i.e. shall be one of that number and state. See also Joshua 22:20 Psalm 74:19. "
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  16. lynnie

    lynnie Puritan Board Graduate

    You want to read Unseen Realm by Mike Heiser.

    Yes it was a heavenly council, and you'll see that when you read his language study.

    I can't believe I beat Bayou Huguenot to this question lol. PM him for resources if he doesn't show up.
  17. cmt72

    cmt72 Puritan Board Freshman

    My take....The gods here are rulers or leaders that possibly appointed by God to rule justly over the people. Verses 6 and 7 may provide some insight as well.
  18. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    I am sure the rest of the Psalm from verse 2-8 is about human leaders. It is only the first verse that I am considering. I said this before in post # 11
  19. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Another proposal (in which I find much merit) is to recognize that the use of the word elohim in 82:1 trades on the inherent ambiguity of the language at that point.

    This comes to mind partly because of my recent preaching in Book 4 of the Psalms. Ps.96 is a song of witness, and at the end has a warning of divine judgment. In Ps.97 the curtain goes up, and the reader has a front row seat on Final Judgment, on what we would recognize as the Second Coming.

    vv7-9 contains the verdict on the wicked; the opening phrases are meant to elicit an "Amen" especially from the witnesses. The final imperative of v7 is a demand for an "Amen" (of sorts) from the most guilty--"Worship him all ye gods.

    Now, in the context one sees mention of the idols. Is it the case the true God is demanding that the "graven images" bow down like broken Dagon (1Sam.5:3-4)? That is certainly a permissible and plausible understanding, but does it exhaust the interpretation?

    Is this judgment on the idols, or on sentient creatures? First of all, what about demons who make use of idols (1Cor.8:4; 10:20; cf.Dt.32:17)? The Psalmist could have in view here the fact that Final Judgment is comprehensive of the spirit world as well as the realms of earth.

    Then secondly, who are the ones responsible in their societies for erecting the idols in the first place, and for encouraging the people in devotion there? The kings and judges of the earth (let's not exclude the high priests, who then tend to rise in the society to the level of the elite, the class that produces the laws and judges)--these who knowing it or not sit in the place of the true Judge, the "Lord of the whole earth" (Ps.97:5,9), are also here rebuked by the same verdict.

    And along with them, in the Judgment stands everyone who looked up to them as judges, and their idol gods and demons; swore fealty to them, counted on them for blessing, followed them in battle for the promise of advancement and honor (and booty), feared them when out of favor, etc. Though guilty, being among them who in the first lines are condemned, they also are witnesses called to declare "Amen" to the whole case.

    They condemn themselves with their rulers and their idols and demons as the latter's knees are broken and they bow whether they wish to or not, Php2:10; Ps.1:5, and bring their followers down beside them. And we singers also say "Amen."
  20. moral necessity

    moral necessity Puritan Board Junior

    From Keil & Delitzsch:

    God's Judgment upon the Gods of the Earth
    As in Ps 81, so also in this Psalm (according to the Talmud the Tuesday Psalm of the Temple liturgy) God is introduced as speaking after the manner of the prophets. Psa 58:1-11 and 94 are similar, but more especially Isa 3:13-15. Asaph the seer beholds how God, reproving, correcting, and threatening, appears against the chiefs of the congregation of His people, who have perverted the splendour of majesty which He has put upon them into tyranny. It is perfectly characteristic of Asaph (Ps 50; Psa 75:1-10; Ps 81) to plunge himself into the contemplation of the divine judgment, and to introduce God as speaking. There is nothing to militate against the Psalm being written by Asaph, David's contemporary, except the determination not to allow to the לאסף of the inscription its most natural sense. Hupfeld, understanding "angels" by the elohim, as Bleek has done before him, inscribes the Psalm: "God's judgment upon unjust judges in heaven and upon earth." But the angels as such are nowhere called elohim in the Old Testament, although they might be so called; and their being judged here on account of unjust judging, Hupfeld himself says, is "an obscure point that is still to be cleared up." An interpretation which, like this, abandons the usage of the language in order to bring into existence a riddle that it cannot solve, condemns itself. At the same time the assertion of Hupfeld (of Knobel, Graf, and others), that in Exo 21:5; Exo 22:7., Ex 27,<,
    (Note: In the English authorized version, Exo 21:6; Exo 22:8. ("judges"), Ex 28 ("gods," margin "judges"). - Tr.)אלהים denotes God Himself, and not directly the authorities of the nation as being His earthly representatives, finds its most forcible refutation in the so-called and mortal elohim of this Psalm (cf. also Psa 45:7; Psa 58:2).By reference to this Psalm Jesus proves to the Jews (Joh 10:34-36) that when He calls Himself the Son of God, He does not blaspheme God, by an argumentatio a minori ad majus. If the Law, so He argues, calls even those gods who are officially invested with this name by a declaration of the divine will promulgated in time (and the Scripture cannot surely, as in general, so also in this instance, be made invalid), then it cannot surely be blasphemy if He calls Himself the Son of God, whom not merely a divine utterance in this present time has called to this or to that worldly office after the image of God, but who with His whole life is ministering to the accomplishment of a work to which the Father had already sanctified Him when He came into the world. In connection with ἡγίασε one is reminded of the fact that those who are called elohim in the Psalm are censured on account of the unholiness of their conduct. The name does not originally belong to them, nor do they show themselves to be morally worthy of it. With ἡγίασε καὶ ἀπέστειλεν Jesus contrasts His divine sonship, prior to time, with theirs, which began only in this present time.
    God comes forward and makes Himself heard first of all as censuring and admonishing. The "congregation of God" is, as in Num 27:17; Num 31:16; Jos 22:16., "the congregation of (the sons of) Israel," which God has purchased from among the nations (Psa 74:2), and upon which as its Lawgiver He has set His divine impress. The psalmist and seer sees Elohim standing in this congregation of God. The part. Niph. (as in Isa 3:13) denotes not so much the suddenness and unpreparedness, as, rather, the statue-like immobility and terrifying designfulness of His appearance. Within the range of the congregation of God this holds good of the elohim. The right over life and death, with which the administration of justice cannot dispense, is a prerogative of God. From the time of Gen 9:6, however, He has transferred the execution of this prerogative to mankind, and instituted in mankind an office wielding the sword of justice, which also exists in His theocratic congregation, but here has His positive law as the basis of its continuance and as the rule of its action. Everywhere among men, but here pre-eminently, those in authority are God's delegates and the bearers of His image, and therefore as His representatives are also themselves called elohim, "gods" (which the lxx in Exo 21:6 renders τὸ κριτήριον τοῦ Θεοῦ, and the Targums here, as in Exo 22:7-8, Exo 22:27 uniformly, דּיּניּא). The God who has conferred this exercise of power upon these subordinate elohim, without their resigning it of themselves, now sits in judgment in their midst. ישׁפּט of that which takes place before the mind's eye of the psalmist. How long, He asks, will ye judge unjustly? שׁפט עול is equivalent to עשׂה עול בּמּשׁפּט, Lev 19:15, Lev 19:35 (the opposite is שׁפט מישׁרים, Psa 58:2). How long will ye accept the countenance of the wicked, i.e., incline to accept, regard, favour the person of the wicked? The music, which here becomes forte, gives intensity to the terrible sternness (das Niederdonnernde) of the divine question, which seeks to bring the "gods" of the earth to their right mind. Then follow admonitions to do that which they have hitherto left undone. They are to cause the benefit of the administration of justice to tend to the advantage of the defenceless, of the destitute, and of the helpless, upon whom God the Lawgiver especially keeps His eye. The word רשׁ (ראשׁ), of which there is no evidence until within the time of David and Solomon, is synonymous with אביון. דלwith ויתום is pointed דל, and with ואביון, on account of the closer notional union, דל (as in Psa 72:13). They are words which are frequently repeated in the prophets, foremost in Isaiah (Isa 1:17), with which is enjoined upon those invested with the dignity of the law, and with jurisdiction, justice towards those who cannot and will not themselves obtain their rights by violence.
    What now follows in Psa 82:5 is not a parenthetical assertion of the inefficiency with which the divine correction rebounds from the judges and rulers. In connection with this way of taking Psa 82:5, the manner in which the divine language is continued in Psa 82:6 is harsh and unadjusted. God Himself speaks in Psa 82:5 of the judges, but reluctantly alienated from them; and confident of the futility of all attempts to make them better, He tells them their sentence in Psa 82:6. The verbs in Psa 82:5 are designedly without any object: complaint of the widest compass is made over their want of reason and understanding; and ידעו takes the perfect form in like manner to ἐγνώκασι, noverunt, cf. Psa 14:1; Isa 44:18. Thus, then, no result is to be expected from the divine admonition: they still go their ways in this state of mental darkness, and that, as the Hithpa. implies, stalking on in carnal security and self-complacency. The commands, however, which they transgress are the foundations (cf. Psa 11:3), as it were the shafts and pillars (Psa 75:4, cf. Pro 29:4), upon which rests the permanence of all earthly relationships with are appointed by creation and regulated by the Tôra. Their transgression makes the land, the earth, to totter physically and morally, and is the prelude of its overthrow. When the celestial Lord of the domain thinks upon this destruction which injustice and tyranny are bringing upon the earth, His wrath kindles, and He reminds the judges and rulers that it is His own free declaratory act which has clothed them with the god-like dignity which they bear. They are actually elohim, but not possessed of the right of self-government; there is a Most High (עליון) to whom they as sons are responsible. The idea that the appellation elohim, which they have given to themselves, is only sarcastically given back to them in Psa 82:1 (Ewald, Olshausen), is refuted by Psa 82:6, according to which they are really elohim by the grace of God. But if their practice is not an Amen to this name, then they shall be divested of the majesty which they have forfeited; they shall be divested of the prerogative of Israel, whose vocation and destiny they have belied. They shall die off כּאדם, like common men not rising in any degree above the mass (cf. בּני אדם, opp. בּני אישׁ, Psa 4:3; Psa 49:3); they shall fall like any one (Jdg 16:7, Oba 1:11) of the princes who in the course of history have been cast down by the judgment of God (Hos 7:7). Their divine office will not protect them. For although justitia civilis is far from being the righteousness that avails before God, yet injustitia civilis is in His sight the vilest abomination.
    The poet closes with the prayer for the realization of that which he has beheld in spirit. He implored God Himself to sit in judgment (שׁפטה as in Lam 3:59), since judgment is so badly exercised upon the earth. All peoples are indeed His נחלה, He has an hereditary and proprietary right among (lxx and Vulgate according to Num 18:20, and frequently), or rather in (בּ as in משׁל בּ, instead of the accusative of the object, Zec 2:11), all nations (ἔθνη) - may He then be pleased to maintain it judicially. The inference drawn from this point backwards, that the Psalm is directed against the possessors of power among the Gentiles, is erroneous. Israel itself, in so far as it acts inconsistently with its theocratic character, belies its sanctified nationality, is a גוי like the גוים, and is put into the same category with these. The judgment over the world is also a judgment over the Israel that is become conformed to the world, and its God-estranged chiefs.

  21. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    I am sure the rest of the Psalm is about human leaders. It is only verse 1 that I am talking about. I said this befor. I think in post#11
  22. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    Hi Jack,
    Sorry I'm just getting back to you, but I want to say that I completely agree with you and, I was one of the "likes" you got. Except for verse 1. That seems different to me as I have explained in various places throughout the thread. But I'm about to drop the subject and just continue wondering about the Wonder of God's word.

  23. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    Thanks. I think it's something we can wonder about, not absolutely clear. Generally, we would hesitate before we say that a word means one thing in one place and something else a few verses later, but it certainly can happen.
  24. Charles Johnson

    Charles Johnson Puritan Board Freshman

  25. Charles Johnson

    Charles Johnson Puritan Board Freshman

    You're right brother, I should have used more qualified language. I hope I haven't don't too much disservice to the view I put forth with my headstrong way of speaking. I don't see any reason to believe that the section you refer to of Daniel 10 is an allegory.
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