Prophet Joseph — episodes seventeen and eighteen

Prophet Joseph — episodes seventeen and eighteen June 18, 2016


Synopsis. Zuleikha’s efforts to seduce Joseph have become the talk of the town, and have damaged Potiphar’s reputation. The priests of Amon decide that this is the perfect time to strike against Potiphar’s boss, the Pharaoh, so they approach the royal chamberlain Apopis and try to persuade him that the Pharaoh should be punished for his impieties. Meanwhile, to clear her name, Zuleikha invites the noblewomen to her palace so that they can see Joseph for themselves, and since the women are in the middle of cutting some fruit when Joseph enters the room, they are so distracted by his beauty that they end up cutting themselves. Zuleikha says the women did this after seeing Joseph only once, so can they imagine what it’s like to see him day after day? The women then tell Joseph to sleep with Zuleikha — or with one of them.

As the 18th episode begins, Zuleikha summons Joseph to her room one last time, and Joseph continues to resist her, so Zuleikha asks Potiphar to send Joseph to prison. When Potiphar tells Joseph this, Joseph says Zuleikha has done him a favour, because in prison he’ll be safe from all the temptations of Potiphar’s palace. Meanwhile, the priests convince Apopis to join them in their conspiracy against the Pharaoh, and Apopis solicits the help of the cupbearer Inarus — but at the last minute, Inarus loses his nerve, and both Apopis and Inarus are sent to prison. Potiphar persuades Amenhotep not to execute them right away, so that he can interrogate them and learn who their accomplices are. Meanwhile, Joseph is sent to the very same prison, and there he exchanges his fancy clothes for prison garb and shackles on his feet.

Differences from Genesis. The biblical Potiphar sends Joseph to prison because he believes Joseph is guilty, not innocent, of sexually assaulting his wife (Genesis 39:19-20). Also, in the biblical version of the story, the men in charge of the Pharaoh’s food are sent to prison some time after Joseph is sent there (Genesis 40:1-3).

Muslim tradition. The Koran describes how the noblewomen accidentally cut their hands when Zuleikha summoned Joseph into the room (12.30-32), and also how Joseph asked to be sent to prison to preserve his innocence (12.33-35).

Pious Joseph. Joseph pointedly does not bow down when the high priest of Amon visits Potiphar’s palace, and he later tells his fellow servant Nemisabu not to bow down before him, because only God is worthy of such honour. (Then again, Joseph did have a dream that his family would bow down to him someday, so, hmmm.)

Joseph feels no small amount of anguish when Zuleikha’s guests start calling him a god because of his beauty, and he prays to be saved from them. Indeed, he welcomes the prospect of going to prison, precisely because he will be safe from them there.

Joseph teaches Potiphar’s servants that race, gender and so forth don’t matter, and that the only thing which makes a person “superior” is being good and humane.

One servant proposes turning to the Pharaoh for help to avoid prison, but Joseph says his God is more powerful than Amenhotep, so why would he go to Amenhotep?

The supernatural. Joseph bids farewell to Kisin, the infant who miraculously spoke in his defense, and the infant cries and cries as Joseph walks away; his cries even continue on the soundtrack long after Joseph has walked outdoors. There is nothing particularly supernatural about a baby crying, but this sequence extends the idea set by previous episodes, that Kisin is unusually sensitive to Joseph and his woes.

God versus the gods. These episodes include another extended scene of Egyptians worshiping Amon while a priest hides behind the idol and provides the deity’s voice. This time the voice chastises the worshipers for their “doubtful looks”; it also says the idol needs to rest, which the modern viewer is clearly meant to find absurd.

The conspiracy against the Pharaoh takes an interesting turn when the priests solicit the help of Apopis and he, in turn, solicits the help of Inarus. The priests say the Pharaoh has been impious, and Apopis initially replies that the Pharaoh, being a god himself, can talk however he likes. Eventually, however, Apopis comes to believe that the Pharaoh’s impieties are evidence that he is not actually semi-divine.

Interestingly, the high priest tells Apopis the Pharaoh cannot be a god because he is opposing the priests of Amon and gods cannot ruin each other — but in Egyptian mythology, the gods did, in fact, act against and even murder each other.

Potiphar, who has privately expressed his own agnosticism in previous episodes, now tells Zuleikha to make a sacrifice to Amon and beg his forgiveness because of the shame she has brought to their household. Potiphar also says he can’t punish her the way he wants to because she is married not only to him but to Amon as well.

The depiction of women. Zuleikha can’t believe that the Egyptian noblewomen, all of whom have their own dirty secrets, are now suddenly gossiping about how modest she should have been. Zuleikha invites the women over to her home to show them that they would have responded to Joseph’s beauty no better than she did — but when Zuleikha raises this point with Potiphar privately, he slaps her face and asks her why she is comparing herself to those women and not to more virtuous women.

Joseph, too, has spoken often in this series about the need for men to avoid the “lusts” and conspiracies of women, and he has threatened to speak harshly to, or otherwise “punish”, the women who have tempted him. So far there has been no indication that women should beware the lusts and conspiracies of men, nor is there any sense that women could “punish” a man who tempted them. Make of that what you will.

Foreshadowing. When the priests bribe Apopis into joining their conspiracy, they tell him he can become the treasurer of Egypt and the head of agriculture. Ironically, if this series follows the biblical template, those positions will end up going to Joseph, who is thrown into jail at the same time as Apopis at the end of this episode.

Theological issues. Once again, Joseph says Satan is speaking through the mouths of those who tempt him, and that he must resist them to avoid the fires of hell. This reflects ideas about Satan and the afterlife that were developed much later in the Abrahamic faiths and would have been unfamiliar to the biblical Joseph.

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 runs from about 1:18:09 to 2:52:03 in this video:

And here are the English-dubbed versions of these episodes:

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