Prophet Joseph — episodes thirty-seven and thirty-eight

Prophet Joseph — episodes thirty-seven and thirty-eight September 5, 2016

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Synopsis. The sons of Jacob embark on their journey to Egypt, leaving their wives, children, and their brother Benjamin behind with their father. They are also accompanied by some Canaanites. Joseph visits some of the land that has fallen into the Egyptian government’s possession and tells Malek they should divide it among farmers who don’t have any land. The brothers arrive in Egypt and try to buy grain. Joseph is alerted to their presence, and he has them ushered into the palace — much to the chagrin of Horemheb, who doesn’t like seeing these lowly shepherds there — but Joseph does not meet the brothers in person. Joseph tells his wife Asenath that his brothers deserve punishment but he forgave them long ago. Zuleikha, at home with her dilapidated idols, prays to Joseph’s God and asks if God will listen to her.

As the 38th episode begins, the brothers have been in the palace for three days and the Canaanites who came with them grow tired of waiting and decide to head home. The brothers are finally ushered into Joseph’s presence, and Joseph, without revealing who he is, grills them about their family background. Finally Joseph says he will sell them grain, but they need to bring Benjamin the next time they come to Egypt; he also privately tells Malek to put the brothers’ money in the sacks with their wheat, and he says this will motivate them to come back to Egypt. In Canaan, the brothers’ wives wonder why the Canaanites have come home but the brothers haven’t. Back in Egypt, Zuleikha attends a ceremony at the former temple of Amon, which is now being dedicated to the one true God, and she calls for Joseph by his Hebrew name. Joseph sees Zuleikha but does not recognize her, and she collapses when she learns that Joseph is married. Joseph tells his men to take Zuleikha back to the palace.

Differences from Genesis. The biblical Joseph spoke “harshly” to the brothers and accused them of being spies, and he ultimately kept Simeon in prison while sending the others back to Canaan; it is also implied that he put the brothers in prison for three days (Genesis 42:3-26). But the Joseph of this series never imprisons any of the brothers — instead, he keeps them in Akhenaten’s palace — and he never seriously accuses them of being spies, though he tells them he could accuse them of that.

The biblical Joseph spoke to his brothers through an interpreter, and they did not realize that he could understand them when they spoke amongst themselves (Genesis 42:23); but the Joseph of this series speaks to the brothers directly.

The biblical Joseph used the famine to enslave the Egyptians (Genesis 47:13-26), but while the Joseph of this series does use the famine to acquire land for the government, he plans to redistribute it to the poor and let them farm it in exchange for a simple tax. Malek responds to this plan by saying that the slaves will effectively own the land.

The biblical Levi had three sons named Gershon, Kohath and Merari (Genesis 46:11), while the Levi of this series has sons named Ohad, Jarshun and Ghahat. I assume that “Jarshun” is identical to “Gershon”, and that either “Ohad” or “Ghahat” is “Kohath”, but there does not seem to be a direct analogue for the Hebrew name “Merari”.

Muslim tradition. The Koran says Joseph put the brothers’ money in their sacks of grain in the hope that it would motivate them to return to Egypt (12.58-62).

Pious Joseph. Joseph tells Asenath he has forgiven his brothers. As per above, he does not treat them as harshly here as he does in the Bible.

God versus the gods. Egypt is now officially monotheist. Joseph leads a ceremony dedicated to the one true God in what used to be the temple of Amon.

Zuleikha finally turns away from the Egyptian gods — shattering one idol and offering another as “payment” to someone because it doesn’t mean anything to her any more — and she begins to follow Joseph’s God instead. Zuleikha asks God to tell Joseph she no longer worships statues, and she says God must be really beautiful if Joseph ignores beautiful women for him. She also marvels that Joseph was able to worship God anywhere, whereas she always had to go to the temple to see Amon, and she says that while she used to feel lonely, she now feels like someone is watching over her.

Family dynamics. Joseph, seeing his brothers for the first time in decades, marvels that their hair has turned white. (Joseph’s hair has streaks of grey, too.)

Joseph tells Asenath that Judah — the brother who wanted to kill him so many years ago — is “still wicked” and looks at everything with suspicion. Similarly, in another scene, the other brothers chide Judah for never seeing the good that people do.

Joseph’s wife has a young girl and a young son next to her. The birth of the girl, Manasseh, was a key plot point in an earlier episode, but the birth of the boy, whose name has not been revealed, must have taken place between scenes.

Other tribes. Canaanites travel with the brothers to Egypt, and they all salute men from a Babylonian caravan en route. The guard at the Syria Gate says people have come from “Hetiter, Hiti, Khbiri and Shamd” in the last week to buy grain.

Egypt. Once again, the series underscores the fact that Horemheb is not happy with some of Joseph’s reforms. Methinks this is foreshadowing how the historical Horemheb eventually became Pharaoh and undid some of Akhenaten’s reforms.

Timeline issues. Asenath says that Joseph — who was sold into slavery when he was 10 or 11 — hasn’t seen his brothers in “30 and a few years”. This fits with earlier episodes, which indicated that Joseph should be at least 42 by now (since he was put in charge of Egypt when he was 30 and he has been governing Egypt for 12 years).

Interestingly, though, Judah says there has been famine in Canaan for only two years, whereas earlier episodes seemed to indicate that there has been a famine in Egypt for five years. Did the famine come to Canaan later than it came to Egypt?

Rudamon, a military officer who used to serve in Potiphar’s palace, returns to Thebes and says he has been at war fighting other countries for ten years. This doesn’t sound quite right, as Rudamon was still working for Zuleikha in the 31st episode, when Joseph had already been governing Egypt for five years. If Rudamon is coming back to Egypt ten years later (or more), then Joseph should be in his 15th or 16th year of governing the country by now, and both the seven years of plenty and the seven years of famine should be over. I’m going to assume Rudamon was rounding up.

Visuals. Zuleikha, who is blind, gets a blurry point-of-view shot.

Themes. A recurring motif in these episodes is how some people fail to recognize people from their past. Joseph’s brothers do not recognize either Joseph or Malek (it was Malek who first bought Joseph from them all those years ago), and Joseph does not recognize Zuleikha when she calls his name at the religious ceremony.

The depiction of women. Various women remark that Zuleikha has become “silly and childlike” and has wasted her life by pining for Joseph. Zuleikha says she is lonely when her servants accompany her, because she can be “with” Joseph in her mind whenever her servants aren’t around to distract her. One servants tells the other that Zuleikha has gotten lovelier as she gets older, while the other says that Zuleikha’s love can’t be a sensual thing at this point because Zuleikha is so old and unhealthy.

Ties to other traditions. When Joseph questions the brothers’ truthfulness, Judah protests that accusations like this should never be made against the sons of the prophets, and Joseph replies, “I think you don’t know what Noah’s son and Cain did!” Both Adam and Noah are prophets within Islam, and the Koran says one of Noah’s sons died in the Flood because he did not get on board the Ark (11.42-43).

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 1:10:54 to 2:51:35 in this video:

Here are the English-dubbed versions of these episodes:


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