Prophet Joseph — episodes twenty-three and twenty-four

Prophet Joseph — episodes twenty-three and twenty-four July 15, 2016


Synopsis. Apopis is about to be executed. An officer tells the crowd that Apopis will die a slow death — hung from a pole with a wound in his feet so that he bleeds to death and the birds devour what’s left — and that he will be deprived of the afterlife because his body will never be mummified. Apopis replies by declaring his belief in God and his hatred for the Egyptian gods. Malek, who has been in Egypt ever since he sold Joseph to Potiphar a dozen years ago, is in the crowd, watching. Back in the prison, Joseph predicts that Ninifer Keptah will be set free, and sure enough, it comes true. Potiphar suffers a couple of mild heart attacks. His servants remark among themselves that Potiphar and Zuleikha don’t seem to love each other any more. Seven years go by, and the Pharaoh dies. His mummified body is sent across the Nile.

As the 24th episode begins, Zuleikha tells her servant she missed the funeral because she is always in mourning already, because she is pining for Joseph. Zuleikha does, however, attend the coronation ceremony for the new Pharaoh, Amenhotep IV. Soon after, Amenhotep is woken by a nightmare in which seven fat cows are devoured by seven thin cows. He summons his priests in the middle of the night, demanding that they interpret the dream. Inarus suddenly remembers that he was supposed to tell the Pharaoh about Joseph, but, ashamed that he forgot, he does not actually speak up until the Pharaoh has a second nightmare, of grain devouring grain. Amenhotep sends Inarus to the prison to get Joseph’s interpretation, and when he gets it, he orders his men to bring Joseph before him — and he says he’s looking forward to the look on the chief priest’s face when the priests realize that Joseph did what they could not.

Differences from Genesis. The biblical baker was impaled, not hung from a rope (Genesis 40:22). The biblical Joseph was in prison for two extra years, not seven (Genesis 41:1). The biblical Pharaoh had his two dreams together, and did not disturb his wise men until the morning (Genesis 41:1-8). And the biblical Joseph delivered his interpretation of those dreams to the Pharaoh in person (Genesis 41:14-36).

Muslim tradition. The Koran (12.42) says the cupbearer — who is not named in the Koran — forgot about Joseph for several years because “Satan caused him to forget,” but in these episodes Joseph clearly says it is God preventing Inarus from fulfilling Joseph’s request, and when Inarus finally remembers Joseph’s request, he speculates that Satan must have been the one who prevented him from remembering.

The Koran also says that birds ate from the baker’s head (12.41; Genesis 40:19 simply says the birds ate the baker’s flesh); and it says that Joseph gave the cupbearer his interpretation of the Pharaoh’s dreams while he was still in prison, instead of giving it to Pharaoh in person (12.43-49). Both traditions are reflected in these episodes.

It is strongly suggested that Amenhotep III dies because he drinks too much wine, and his doctor calls wine “a constant and fatal poison”. This may or may not be rooted in the Muslim prohibition against drinking wine and other alcoholic beverages.

Pious Joseph. Joseph continues to be a force for good in prison, saying at one point that he has been able to pray and “refine” himself during the extra seven years that he has spent there. One prisoner observes that Joseph likes to cultivate things, from the flowers in the prison’s garden to the people who populate the prison. Joseph prays for Apopis, predicts that Ninifer Keptah will be set free, and willingly gives Inarus his interpretation of the Pharaoh’s dreams without asking any favours in return.

God versus the gods. Apopis condemns “Amon, the cruel god” at his execution and proclaims his faith in the one true God; in a voice-over, as he is bleeding to death, he also wishes that he had been able to introduce his wife and children to Joseph and his God. Meanwhile, the chief priests of Amon worry that a mere slave like Joseph might provide a better interpretation of the Pharaoh’s dreams than they can provide.

The Pharaohs frequently reject the priests of Amon in these episodes. Amenhotep III tells his son the monks are dangerous and he does not want to be buried with a statue of their god; he also tells his son not to let Queen Tiye interfere in palace affairs because of her devotion to Amon. Amenhotep IV refuses to be treated by the priests when he has an epileptic fit, and he chastises them for getting rich at the people’s expense and being useless when he needs them to interpret his dreams.

Despite this friction between the Pharaohs and the priests, the coronation ceremony for Amenhotep IV is officiated by the priests and is full of praises for Amon.

Family dynamics. Apopis and Inarus are both seen with families for the first time: Apopis’s wife mourns his execution, condemns the political, religious and military figures who are responsible for his death, and begs the birds to leave her husband’s body alone, while Inarus’s wife urges him to tell the Pharaoh about Joseph.

Egypt. The historical Amenhotep III died c. 1350 BC after ruling Egypt for 38 or 39 years; his wife Tiye lived another 15 years or so, and his son Amenhotep IV ruled for 17 years, which is just enough to cover the coming years of plenty and famine.

The younger Amenhotep tells his father that they need to change the religion of Egypt because the gods can’t supervise what the priests are doing, and it leads to cruelty. Presumably this foreshadows the younger Amenhotep’s upcoming religious reforms, which will promote a form of monotheism (with input from Joseph, perhaps?).

Timeline issues. Early in the 23rd episode, the warden states that Ninifer Keptah has been in prison for 12 years. Joseph was 11 when Ninifer Keptah went to jail, so he should be 23 at this point. Joseph then spends another seven years in prison, so he should be 30 by the time the Pharaoh has his nightmares, which is the same age the biblical Joseph was when he interpreted the Pharaoh’s dreams (Genesis 41:46).

If Joseph is 30 years old when Amenhotep III dies, then he would have been born c. 1380 BC. But the first episode of this series, which takes place before the birth of Joseph, said it took place in 1160 BC. Perhaps that was a mistranslation?

Visuals. There are some fantastic visual effects in Pharaoh’s dreams, both of which suggest that there is something snake-like about the cows and grains that symbolize the seven years of famine. In the first dream, a skinny cow opens his jaws wide — really wide — and swallows the fat cow whole, while in the second dream, the rotting stalks of grain coil around the healthy stalks and squeeze the life out of them.

Themes. Medical issues are a recurring motif in these episodes: Potiphar has his heart attacks, Amenhotep III his alcoholism, and Amenhotep IV his epileptic attack.

The depiction of women. Zuleikha worries that she can’t face Joseph again, if she stays depressed the way she is. As the years go by, she also complains to her servants that she has no dignity or beauty any more. The noblewomen at the coronation ceremony gossip about Zuleikha and what she has “done to herself”.

Theological issues. Joseph remarks that God’s messengers do not always succeed in spreading his word because “the dead do not hear”. This presumably refers to people who are physically alive but spiritually “dead” on the inside.

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 begins at the 2:22:55 mark in this video:

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

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