Prophet Joseph — episodes twenty-one and twenty-two

Prophet Joseph — episodes twenty-one and twenty-two July 8, 2016


Synopsis. Joseph continues to encourage his fellow inmates. One day, while they are all on a food break at the quarry, Joseph sees a Canaanite chasing a runaway camel, and Joseph, without revealing who he is, asks the man for news of his family and gives him a cryptic message to take back to Jacob. Apopis is woken by a bad dream and learns that Inarus, too, has had a dream. They ask Joseph to interpret the dreams, and Joseph, to prove his words are trustworthy, makes a prophecy that comes true within minutes, as a meal of luxurious food arrives unexpectedly from Zuleikha. Joseph tells the inmates he is a “messenger” from God, and he leads them all in a profession of faith. Then he interprets the dreams: in three days, Inarus will be free but Apopis will be dead. Joseph consoles Apopis and tells him he will find peace in heaven.

As the 22nd episode begins, Zuleikha arrives at the prison to complain once again that Joseph is being treated too well. Meanwhile, back in Canaan, the man with the camel visits Jacob and passes on Joseph’s message. Back in Egypt, Apopis and Inarus are summoned from the prison, and Joseph asks Inarus to tell the Pharaoh about him — but he immediately regrets doing this, because it means he was relying on someone other than God for help. An angel tells Joseph he will stay in prison an extra seven years for this “sin”. Amenhotep summons the priests and demands that Apopis repeat what he confessed in prison, but Apopis lies and says he planned the assassination all by himself. Amenhotep sentences Apopis to death and blames Potiphar for the fact that their plan to trick the priests into an admission of guilt has backfired.

Differences from Genesis. Apart from the prophetic nature of the dreams, there are no supernatural elements — no angels or other prophecies — in the biblical version of this story (Genesis 40). Also, the biblical Joseph stayed in prison for two years, rather than seven, after the cupbearer left the prison (Genesis 41:1).

Muslim tradition. The Koran (12.36-42) says Joseph exhorted the baker and the cupbearer to believe in the one true God before he interpreted their dreams. (It also says he did all this this before their meals arrived, rather than afterwards.)

While telling his fellow prisoners that he is the latest in a long line of “messengers”, Joseph predicts that there will be a final “messenger” some day.

In the subtitled version of this episode, Joseph calls the final messenger “Sotudeh”, and in the dubbed version, he calls him “Praiseworthy”. It’s hard to find a definition of “Sotudeh” via Google, but a comment under this YouTube video indicates that it may be a recognized alternate name for Mohammed within the Persian tradition.

The Koran says Joseph stayed in prison for several years because “Satan caused [the cupbearer] to forget” about Joseph’s request for help. However, Mohammed also reportedly said that Joseph stayed in prison longer than he should have “because he sought deliverance from someone other than God.” There is no sign of Satan in these episodes, but the angel does indicate that God is extending Joseph’s sentence.

Pious Joseph. Joseph prays while his fellow inmates sleep, and he preaches to them, and ultimately he leads them all in a statement of pre- or proto-Islamic faith.

The supernatural. A runaway camel leads a man to Joseph, and then, fortuitously, the camel returns to the man just as his conversation with Joseph is ending.

Joseph prophesies what kind of lunch the prisoners will have.

And an angel visits Joseph twice: once to tell him it is time to reveal his true identity to his fellow inmates (and thereby convert them to monotheism), and once to tell him that he is being punished for relying on Pharaoh rather than on God for help.

God versus the gods. Joseph thanks a fellow prisoner for blessing him but mutters to himself afterwards that the Egyptian gods are incapable of blessing anyone.

Apopis is worried that he won’t be mummified if he is executed; he says he’ll be tortured forever in the afterlife. Joseph tells him not to think like a pagan, and tries to reassure him that God will give him peace in heaven after he dies.

Believably human. After he hears the interpretation of his dream, Apopis freaks out and says he didn’t have a dream after all. His state of denial feels very real.

Family dynamics. Zuleikha mentions at one point that she raised Joseph, which is the closest anyone has come so far to admitting that there is something incestuous about her efforts to seduce Joseph, who is the closest thing she has ever had to a son. (Zuleikha and Potiphar did talk about adopting Joseph when he was a boy.)

Canaanites. The Canaanite with the runaway camel knows about Jacob and his loss, and one of Joseph’s fellow prisoners has heard of Abraham. The family is famous.

Timeline issues. It’s not clear how old Joseph is in these episodes. The Canaanite guesses that he is 30 or 32, but previous episodes seemed to indicate that he was in his early 20s — and as the angel makes clear, Joseph has been in prison for less than a year. (In the biblical timeline, Joseph was 28 at this point in the story.)1

Visuals. The dreams have strong surreal-ish elements (vaseline around the edge of the lens, etc.), and the angel’s second appearance to Joseph takes place in a sort of artificial desert landscape. We also get point-of-view shots from inside the hoods with eye-holes that Apopis and Inarus are made to wear as they leave the prison.

Theological issues. After Apopis and Inarus convert to monotheism, Joseph says he is not worried about Apopis but he is worried about Inarus, because Apopis will die soon and go straight to heaven with a pure soul, but Inarus will stay in this world — and that means Inarus might sin again some day and die in a sinful state.

It makes sense, of course, to encourage people to hold fast to their beliefs, but it’s a little odd to see Joseph be so sanguine about death, and to even suggest that it might be preferable to life simply because it would prevent someone from sinning.

There is also much that could be said about the idea that Joseph sinned somehow by asking for help from Pharaoh (through Inarus) and not simply from God. Is it really so wrong to seek help from others, or to think that God helps people through others?

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 50:52 to 2:22:56 in this video:

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

1. Genesis 41:46 says Joseph was 30 when he began working for Pharaoh, and Genesis 41:1 says this was two years after he interpreted the dreams of the baker and the cupbearer. Thirty minus two is 28.

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