Prophet Joseph — episodes thirty-five and thirty-six

Prophet Joseph — episodes thirty-five and thirty-six August 23, 2016

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Synopsis. The Egyptian army, led by Horemheb, returns home after years of fighting against the Amorites. The priests of Amon get into an argument with Joseph while lining up for grain and inadvertently reveal that the temple of Amon has less wealth than it used to. In Canaan, Jacob teaches his grandchildren about the prophets. Back in Egypt, Joseph says it is time to act against the priests and make monotheism the official religion of Egypt. Egyptians begin arguing in the street about Joseph’s reforms and a fight breaks out, resulting in the death of a monotheist. Joseph teaches an Egyptian crowd that they should worship a God who is superior to them, and he says gods made of stone and wood cannot be superior to humans. Padiamun, one of the priests, leads an attack against one of the granaries but it is thwarted by Joseph, who wounds Padiamun personally. The priests retreat to their temple in the city.

As the 36th episode begins, Padiamun confines the chief priest to his room for daring to say that he will apologize to the Pharaoh for Padiamun’s actions. The priests offer food to any average Egyptian who joins them in defense of Amon. Zuleikha listens to the arguments in the street, keen to see which side will win the battle of the gods. Akhenaten sends Horemheb and his troops to the temple to seize all the priests. A battle ensues in which soldiers on both sides are killed, and Horemheb himself kills Padiamun after a lengthy swordfight. Joseph arrives and discovers that the idol of Amon has vanished from its cabinet — but then he discovers a trapdoor beneath the cabinet, and two priests hiding with the idol beneath it. The priests are all arrested and sent to prison. Meanwhile, in Canaan, Jacob speaks to his older sons for the first time in years, and tells them to go buy food in Egypt, lest their families starve.

Differences from Genesis. The biblical Jacob sent his sons to Egypt at some point during the first two years of the famine (Genesis 45:6), but if my calculations are correct, the Jacob of this series does not send his sons to Egypt until the fifth or sixth year. (See ‘Timeline issues’ below.) The biblical Jacob did, however, chastise his sons when he sent them, just as the Jacob of this series does (Genesis 42:1-2).

The biblical Levi had three sons named Gershon, Kohath and Merari (Genesis 46:11). The Levi of this series has a son named Ghahad, and presumably other children as well. Is “Ghahad” a different name or a transliteration of “Kohath”, perhaps?

Muslim tradition. Jacob tells his grandchildren that some prophets are superior to others. For example, he says that some prophets, like himself, are responsible for only their part of the world, but the greatest prophet of them all will be the last one (i.e. Mohammed), because he will be followed by people from all over the world.

Jacob also says that the last prophet before him was “Ahmad”, the son of his uncle Ishmael, but I see no sons of Ishmael in the list of Islamic prophets here.

Pious Joseph. In these episodes, Joseph goes beyond mere preaching to becoming something of a holy warrior, not least when he wounds Padiamun.

God versus the gods. In previous episodes, Joseph told the Pharaoh to let people come to monotheism on their own, without being forced into it — but now that the priests of Amon have been weakened by the famine, Joseph tells the Pharaoh to make monotheism the official religion of Egypt, even if it leads to violence.

Interestingly, despite the fact that the monotheists are becoming more assertive, Malek tells one of the regular Egyptians not to insult the Egyptian gods because doing so will prompt a backlash, as followers of those gods insult the one true God.

Zuleikha, for her part, says she can’t side with a temple that is plotting against Joseph. Her servants tease her for worshiping Joseph himself rather than his God.

Family dynamics. The other sons of Jacob are surprised when Benjamin — the only son that Jacob still speaks to — approaches them and says that their father wants to speak to them. Judah, who led the plot against Joseph years ago, says he doesn’t feel like listening to Jacob’s insults, but Levi, who came to Joseph’s defense way back when, assures Benjamin that he and the others will answer Jacob’s summons.

One of the brothers’ wives says Jacob’s request that they go to Egypt is a test to see if his sons deserve to be considered his children again, so they had better go.

These episodes clarify that when Jacob is teaching his grandchildren, he is speaking not only to Benjamin’s children but to the children of at least some of his other sons — even though he has apparently been shunning those sons for decades.

Other tribes. We hear about the Egyptians fighting the Amorites and Sumerians, both of whom had actually been absorbed or conquered by the Assyrian or Babylonian kingdoms by the time this series takes place (i.e. the mid-14th century BC).

Also, “the tribe of Abel” comes from the north to buy grain. It is not clear to me which particular tribe or nation this is meant to be, but Joseph reminds the priests that the tribe of Abel has been paying tribute to the Egyptian government for years, so it is only right that they now be allowed to buy some grain just like the Egyptians do.

Egypt. Horemheb has been the leader of the Egyptian army ever since Potiphar died, and he enforces the Pharaoh’s will even though he privately thinks the Pharaoh is a “wayward son”. (Ironically, Horemheb enforces Akhenaten’s monotheistic edicts because he believes Akhenaten is the gods’ representative on Earth.) I suspect that the Horemheb of this series is meant to be identical to the historical Horemheb who commanded the army under Akhenaten’s son Tutankhamun and went on to become Pharaoh himself. The historical Horemheb was the last Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty and the first to undo the religious reforms of the historical Akhenaten.

Interestingly, the Akhenaten of this series tells Joseph he will erase the name of Amon from the country’s inscriptions and replace it with the name of Joseph’s God. The historical Akhenaten himself suffered a fate like this after his own death, and was largely forgotten until his capital city was discovered in the 19th century.

In one scene, Nefertiti seems to be ushering a child out of the room, but she and the child are mainly seen from a distance. Is the child her son Tutankhamun?

A man says Joseph doesn’t have the right to reject the religion that Egyptians have been following for “thousands of years”. In another scene, Zuleikha says that the priests of Amon have inherited a 3,000-year history and are now beggars. The queen mother Tiye made similar comments a few episodes ago, which seemed a bit debatable to me, but in a later episode Queen Nefertiti said Egyptians had been worshiping Amon for only a thousand years (unless the subtitles mistranslated her).

Geography. One of Jacob’s sons says the journey to Egypt will take 20 days. Google Maps says the trip from Beersheba to Thebes (the capital city in this series) would take about 250 hours on foot, which would be 32 days at eight hours of walking per day, 25 days at 10 hours of walking per day, or 21 days at 12 hours of walking per day.

Timeline issues. Zuleikha says Joseph has been ruling Egypt for the past 12 years. If we assume that the seven years of plenty began right after Akhenaten made Joseph his second in command, then the battle between the Pharaoh’s army and the priests of Amon must be taking place about five years into the seven years of famine.

This supposition is supported by the fact that Joseph’s daughter was born about one year before the famine began, and she appears to be about five or six now.

Themes. Violence is a major theme in these episodes. Akhenaten is bothered by the killings that Horemheb describes in his report on the war against the Amorites, and when Akhenaten orders Inarus to pour a drink for Horemheb, the camera lingers on the wine being poured as though it were symbolic of blood. When Joseph says it’s time to act against the priests of Amon, Akhenaten says he doesn’t like violence but sometimes there is no other choice, and Joseph replies that he hopes no one will die, but any blood that is shed for a noble cause like this will gladden people’s hearts.

Theological issues. Joseph tells the Egyptians to follow his God because his God sent seven years of rain to help prepare for the famine, but no one makes the obvious reply that his God also seems to be sending the seven years of famine.

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 4:02:09 mark in this video…

…and concludes in the first 71 minutes of this video:

Here are the English-dubbed versions of these episodes:

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