Prophet Joseph — episodes forty-one and forty-two

Prophet Joseph — episodes forty-one and forty-two October 1, 2016


Synopsis. Joseph and Asenath pay a visit to Zuleikha and find that she is still deep in prayer. Asenath says she isn’t jealous that Joseph will be getting a second wife soon, but she says she does covet Zuleikha’s spiritual growth. Meanwhile, Joseph’s brothers split up into groups of two or three and enter Thebes by different gates, to avoid being detected — but they are spotted anyway and taken back to the palace. Joseph reveals his identity to Benjamin but tells him to keep it a secret. Joseph tells Asenath he has to find a way to keep Benjamin in Egypt so that their father, Jacob, can give up his sons and get them back the same way Abraham almost sacrificed one of his sons, only to get him back. The brothers leave Thebes and begin to make their way back to Canaan, but Joseph’s soldiers ride out and accuse the brothers of stealing a golden chalice.

As the 42nd episode begins, Joseph’s men find the chalice in Benjamin’s bag of wheat. Joseph himself rides out to “arrest” Benjamin and take him back to Thebes. The brothers go back to the palace and plead for mercy, but Joseph says Benjamin must stay behind and be his slave for four years, as per Canaanite custom (the same way Joseph stayed with his aunt Faegheh many years ago after she tricked Jacob into thinking that Joseph had stolen a belt from her). Levi refuses to leave Egypt without Benjamin, but the other brothers go back home to Canaan. Jacob mourns the loss of Benjamin and weeps so much that his eyes go white with blindness. An angel speaks to Jacob and chides him for loving Joseph as much as he loved God. Jacob repents and says that he will forget his sons, because God is sufficient for him instead.

Differences from Genesis. In one of the mind games that the biblical Joseph plays on his older brothers, he has them all seated in the order of their ages, from oldest to youngest, and he gives Benjamin five times as much food as the others (Genesis 43:32-34); but the Joseph of this series asks the brothers to group themselves by birth mother (sons of Leah, sons of Bilhah, sons of Zilpah) when they sit down to eat. Also, the biblical Joseph sat at his own table, apart from the brothers, but the Joseph of this series has Benjamin sit with himself because there are no other sons of Rachel for Benjamin to sit with. (In the biblical account, there was also a third table for some Egyptian characters, who thought that eating with Hebrews was “detestable”, but the only Egyptians in this part of the series are the servants standing at attention.)

The biblical Joseph left the room and wept almost immediately after seeing Benjamin for the first time in years (Genesis 43:29-30), but the Joseph of this series does not leave the room to cry until after he has sat with Benjamin and talked to him.

The biblical Joseph put a silver cup in Benjamin’s sack of wheat (Genesis 44:1-2), but the Joseph of this series puts a gold chalice in the sack of wheat instead.

When the biblical Joseph’s steward accused the brothers of stealing the silver cup, the brothers said the thief would die and the rest of them would become slaves, and the steward replied that the thief would become a slave and the rest of them would be free from blame (Genesis 44:7-10), but the brothers in this series simply say that according to Canaanite custom a thief must become his victim’s slave for four years.

The biblical brothers begged so strongly for Joseph to let Benjamin go — Judah even offered to stay behind in Benjamin’s place — that the biblical Joseph revealed his true identity to his brothers right then and there (Genesis 44:14-45:15), but the Joseph of this series keeps his true identity hidden from everyone but Benjamin, and nine of the brothers eventually give up and go home while Benjamin and Levi stay behind.

Muslim tradition. The Koran describes how Joseph revealed his identity to Benjamin (12.69), how the brothers said it was no surprise that Benjamin had stolen the cup because his brother Joseph had stolen something before (12.70-77), how one brother (“the eldest”) stayed behind in Egypt while the others returned to Jacob (12.78-82), and how Jacob’s eyes went white with grief (12.83-86).

These episodes also refer back to a tradition that was depicted in the fourth episode, in which Jacob’s sister (who does not exist in the Bible) tricked Jacob into letting Joseph stay with her by planting a belt on Joseph and accusing him of stealing it. Joseph does something similar when he accuses Benjamin of stealing the golden chalice.

The supernatural. The brothers, as per Jacob’s instructions, try to sneak into Thebes without being detected by the Egyptian soldiers, but when they are found, they remark that there is a “superior will” that wanted them to be found — and one brother remarks that their father made a plan but God made something else happen.

Jacob’s plans are also undone later on when Benjamin is kept behind in Egypt — and on this occasion, an angel appears to him to explain why the plans were undone.

Joseph also hints that something resembling Providence is at work when he remarks that his brothers and Zuleikha have both come back into his life at the same time.

Believably human. Just look at how Joseph and Benjamin shed their tears when they embrace in the presence of Joseph’s family, far from the other brothers.

Family dynamics. Levi is distraught by the way the other brothers assume that Benjamin really is guilty of stealing the golden chalice, and by the way the other brothers say that Joseph was a thief too (because of the time their aunt pretended that Joseph had stolen a belt from her). Levi says someone could have planted the golden chalice in Benjamin’s sack, the same way their aunt planted the belt on Joseph.

Levi says losing Benjamin has made him realize how cruel the brothers were to Joseph all those years ago, and he vows to stay in Egypt until he dies, if need be, so long as Benjamin is there. Later, in Canaan, the other brothers begin to talk about what they did to Joseph, and one of them even thanks the governor of Egypt (who happens to be Joseph, though the brother doesn’t know that) for making them think about it.

The name of Joseph’s son is revealed to be “Aflatoon”, according to the subtitles. Is that supposed to be related somehow to the biblical son’s name Ephraim? Or is it an entirely different name? Meanwhile, the Benjamin of this series has a son named “Roma”, which doesn’t seem to match any of the names in Genesis 46:21.

Timeline issues. Benjamin says Jacob has been waiting 36 years to see Joseph, and one of the other brothers says it has been “about forty years” since they sold Joseph into slavery. These figures seem wrong to me. Joseph was only 10 or 11 when he was sold into slavery, so if these episodes are taking place 36 years later, he should be 46 or 47 now. But he was 30 when he began preparing for the seven years of plenty and the seven years of famine, and the famine, which has been going on for at least five years, hasn’t ended yet — so Joseph should be between 42 and 44 now. Thus, between 31 and 34 years have passed since Joseph was sold into slavery, and, if anything, it would be more accurate to say that about thirty years have gone by since then.

Themes. A recurring theme in these episodes is that Jacob needs to “sacrifice his Ishmael” by letting go of Joseph and Benjamin, the same way Abraham almost sacrificed one of his sons (Ishmael in Islam, Isaac in Judaism and Christianity) on an altar — and that it is only after Jacob has given them up that he can get them back.

Interestingly, when Jacob tells the angel that he weeps for Joseph because there are no substitutes for Joseph, the angel sternly replies that only God is unique. And when Jacob says that Joseph was the mirror of God and that, by losing Joseph, he has lost his mirror for seeing God, the angel replies that all people are mirrors of God.

The depiction of women. Asenath tells Joseph she still won’t be envious if he takes a second wife, but she says she does covet Zuleikha’s spiritual growth.

Joseph says marriage isn’t mandatory, so whether Zuleikha marries him is ultimately up to her; either she will accept God’s command or she won’t, says Joseph.

Zuleikha, for her part, says she isn’t in love with Joseph any more — she doesn’t know if she can accept any love but God’s now — so she doesn’t know what to do.

Zuleikha also says she has spent her whole life being haughty, proud, self-centred, etc., and she worries that she won’t be able to compensate for that now.

Ties to other traditions. As noted above, both Joseph and the angel that appears to Jacob refer to the time that Abraham almost sacrificed one of his sons.

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 takes up the first 99 minutes of this video:

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

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