Prophet Joseph — episodes nineteen and twenty

Prophet Joseph — episodes nineteen and twenty June 24, 2016


Synopsis. Joseph is led into the prison, which is full of chaos and filth. One of the first things he sees is Ninifer Keptah — a former member of Potiphar’s guard who was sent to prison years ago when Joseph, then 11, tricked him into confessing a crime — beating another prisoner almost to death. Joseph intervenes, and the warden has both Joseph and Ninifer Keptah lashed. But the warden takes a liking to Joseph when Nemisabu arrives with a care package and a note from one of Potiphar’s officers that speaks highly of Joseph and says the warden should not let Joseph’s organizational talents go to waste. Before long, Joseph has convinced the other prisoners to clean the jail. Meanwhile, the priests of Amon start searching for Apopis, who was supposed to kill the Pharaoh for them but is now stuck in the same prison as Joseph.

As the 20th episode begins, Joseph is doing hard labour in a quarry, where he explains to his fellow prisoners that the Egyptian gods — and the idols that represent them — are no more powerful than the stones that the prisoners are mining. One of the priests of Amon arrives at the prison, looking for Apopis, and is promptly arrested; Potiphar, convinced now that the priests were behind the assassination attempt, has Apopis whipped until he confesses everything. Meanwhile, Zuleikha learns that members of her household are sending food, clothes and medicine to Joseph and his fellow prisoners, and she goes to the prison to personally demand that Joseph be tortured while she watches from another room. Eventually, however, Zuleikha regrets the order and tells the warden to stop the punishment. She goes home and confesses to her servant that she doesn’t know what to do about her feelings for Joseph.

Differences from Genesis. Potiphar and his wife disappear from the biblical story after Joseph is thrown in jail (in Genesis 39:20), but this miniseries — like a lot of other dramatizations of the Joseph story1 — expands their role considerably.

Pious Joseph. Joseph brings the same sense of order and compassion to the prison that he brought to the servants’ quarters in Potiphar’s palace; indeed, he is already scrubbing one of the prison’s walls before the warden puts him in charge of the place, and when Nemisabu arrives with a care package from Potiphar’s servants, Joseph shares its contents with his fellow prisoners. Joseph stands up for the other prisoners — starting before he has even met any of them — and they, in return, stand up for Joseph by threatening to quit their work when he is whipped by the guards.

Speaking of which, this is the first time Joseph has been physically beaten since before he became a slave; the only other time we have seen anyone beat him at length is when his brothers turned on him before putting him down the well. (He was also struck once by a member of the caravan that bought him from his brothers, but that man stopped immediately when a miraculous pain shot through his arm.)

Unlike the other prisoners, however, Joseph is strong enough to endure his beatings without crying out in pain — though we can tell from his face that he is in pain.

Joseph is physically strong in other ways, too. When he intervenes to stop Ninifer Keptah from beating one of the other prisoners, he quickly pins Ninifer Keptah against a wall and tells him to “calm down”. But Joseph doesn’t want to fight Ninifer Keptah; instead, he tries to talk him out of holding a hateful grudge against him.

Joseph is not only strong; he is smart, too, and he figures out that Apopis’s plot to kill the Pharaoh was driven by the priests of Amon long before Apopis confesses it.

Potiphar remarks that everyone loves Joseph but Joseph does not love everyone; as he puts it, Joseph “loves the poor but hates the cruel.” But Joseph doesn’t dismiss the cruel within these episodes; instead, he reaches out to Ninifer Keptah and he prays for Zuleikha — the one who is responsible for his imprisonment and his biggest beating — by asking God to guide Zuleikha from the “jails” that she has made for herself.

God versus the gods. Joseph openly preaches monotheism to his fellow prisoners and tells them gods like Amon won’t help them — and besides, even if they could, they would probably start by helping the priests who put some of those prisoners in jail to begin with. Joseph says the prisoners need “a needless God” — i.e. a God who doesn’t need to be cared for like the idol of Amon does — and he says his God is kind and powerful and opposed to the behaviour of pagan gods who abduct women, etc.

Ninifer Keptah tries to snitch on Joseph and his monotheism — but the prison warden doesn’t care. Instead, he says that Joseph is a good man and the prison has gotten better ever since Joseph arrived, and he threatens to punish Ninifer Keptah severely if he ever fights with Joseph again. So, the warden joins the Pharaoh and Potiphar in being at least indifferent to, if not outright hostile to, Egyptian religiosity.

Egypt. One of Joseph’s fellow prisoners says the god Amon abducts women. I am not aware of any myths to that effect, but that is certainly what the gods of Greco-Roman mythology did, and it is what certain kings — including at least one Pharaoh (Genesis 12:10-20) — are reported to have done in the Bible. So such a myth might exist.

Timeline issues. In the 19th episode, Inarus says it has been two months since he and Apopis were sentenced to prison (at the end of the 18th episode), and both of them have only stubble on their chins. But when Apopis is tortured by Potiphar in the 20th episode, both he and Inarus have very full beards. So presumably even more time — indeed, a lot more time — has passed since the two months went by?

Episodes: 1-2 | 3-4 | 5-6 | 7-8 | 9-10 | 11-12 | 13-14 | 15-16 | 17-18 | 19-20 | 21-22 | 23-24 | 25-26 | 27-28 | 29-30 | 31-32 | 33-34 | 35-36 | 37-38 | 39-40 | 41-42 | 43-45

The subtitled version of these episodes starts at the 2:52:03 mark in this video…

…and concludes in the first 51 minutes of this video:

Here are the English-dubbed versions of these episodes:

1. For example: in Joseph in the Land of Egypt (1914), Potiphar and his wife are present when Joseph is promoted to the second-highest position in all of Egypt, and Potiphar’s wife is ultimately sent to prison; in Joseph and His Brethren (1961), Potiphar kills his wife in a sort of murder-suicide, setting fire to their bedroom while Joseph is still in prison; in The Emigrant (1994), Zuleikha retracts her accusation after Joseph is sent to prison, and Potiphar ultimately sets Joseph free from slavery; in Joseph (1995), Potiphar connects Joseph with both the imprisoned servants of Pharaoh and the dream-haunted Pharaoh himself, and he lets one of his slavemasters work for Joseph after Joseph’s promotion; and in Slave of Dreams (1995), Potiphar and Zuleikha are reconciled and have a newborn child at the end of the story.

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