Prophet Joseph — episodes forty-three to forty-five

Prophet Joseph — episodes forty-three to forty-five October 27, 2016

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Synopsis. The sons of Jacob prepare to go to Egypt. Jacob dictates a letter to the Egyptian governor, who unbeknownst to him is his son Joseph. Meanwhile, in Egypt, Akhenaten visits Joseph’s house and decrees that Zuleikha must marry Joseph. Joseph speaks to a crowd — many of whom have become technically enslaved to the Pharaoh in exchange for wheat — and declares that everyone in Egypt is free now, except for those who owned slaves and exploited the poor before the famine. Joseph’s brothers arrive and ask him to let Benjamin go back to Canaan. Joseph produces the bill of sale that they signed when they sold him into slavery, and reads it aloud.

As the 44th episode begins, the brothers claim that the document Joseph just read to them concerned a maid’s son that they sold into slavery. Benjamin says they never had such a slave, and Joseph says the brothers are still lying. Joseph finally reveals his true identity to his brothers, and Levi in particular begs for forgiveness. Joseph sends the brothers back to Canaan with the heavenly shirt that Jacob once gave him, and tells them to put it over Jacob’s eyes. When they do, it cures Jacob of his blindness — but now he that knows Joseph is alive, and he realizes that his sons have been lying to him for decades about Joseph’s “death”. He chastises his sons, but eventually the whole family prepares to move to Egypt, and the Canaanites bid them a sad farewell.

As the 45th episode begins, Jacob asks God to forgive his sons. The people of Thebes prepare to welcome Joseph’s extended family, and Joseph and Jacob have a tearful reunion. The family bows down before Joseph, just as Joseph once dreamed that they would. The old man who appeared to Joseph in the well appears again, and tells Joseph he has given people a glimpse of the beauty of divine rule under one of God’s chosen — and he says there will be an even greater ruler than Joseph one day, who will rule over all people. Judah turns to Simeon and tells him, ominously, that the future of the Israelite nation will belong to his descendants rather than Joseph’s. The old man who spoke to Joseph walks through the rain outdoors. The end.

Differences from Genesis. The biblical Joseph enslaved the people of Egypt during the famine (Genesis 47:13-26), but the Joseph of this series declares that everyone who became enslaved to the Pharaoh as a result of the famine is now free — except for those who owned slaves and deprived people of freedom before the famine.

The biblical Judah begged Joseph to let Benjamin go back to Canaan (Genesis 44:18-34), but in this series it is Levi who pleads with Joseph.

The biblical Jacob and Joseph were reunited in Goshen (Genesis 46:28-29), and only Jacob and five of Joseph’s brothers met the Pharaoh (Genesis 47:1-10), but in this series, Jacob and his entire clan meet Joseph and the Pharaoh in Thebes.

The biblical Joseph also told his family they were settling in Goshen, far from the urban centres of Egypt, because the Egyptians find shepherds “detestable” (Genesis 46:31-34), but the Egyptians of this series — who have come to love living under Joseph’s rule — welcome Jacob and his clan with big ceremonies.

Muslim tradition. The Koran describes how the brothers of Joseph made a third trip to Egypt (12.87-88), how Joseph revealed his true identity to them (12.89-93), how Jacob detected Joseph’s “scent” as the brothers made their way home (12.94-95), how Jacob’s eyes were healed by Joseph’s shirt (12.96), how Jacob pleaded with God to forgive his sons (12.97-98), and how Jacob was reunited with Joseph when his family moved to Egypt (12.99-101). The final voice-over that concludes the series is also taken directly from the final verse in the sura about Joseph (12.111).

Jacob tells his grandchildren he knows the last prophet (i.e. Mohammed), and he says all the prophets know the last prophet. Jacob says this prophet’s name is “Ahmad”, and he says this prophet will be the son (descendant?) of his uncle Ishmael.

Both Jacob and the old man who appears to Joseph predict that a Promised One will one day rule over the world and be its lord. Presumably this refers to the Mahdi, a prophesied redeemer who, according to Islamic teaching, will rid the world of evil and rule it for a certain number of years prior to the Day of Judgment.

The final line of dialogue goes to Judah when he says it is his descendants, rather than Joseph’s, that will determine the fate of Jacob’s line; the children of Israel, he says, will be called “Judaists”, not “Josephists”. This presumably reflects the Muslim belief that Judaism and Christianity have corrupted the teachings of the earlier prophets with erroneous teachings that were corrected by Mohammed and the Koran.

Pious Joseph. Joseph humbly says his good deeds are not his own, and the old man who appears to Joseph tells him that he (Joseph) has given people a glimpse of how beautiful it can be to be ruled by one of God’s chosen. When the old man predicts the coming of the Promised One, Joseph replies that the old man will undoubtedly see the Promised One too, and he asks the old man to give the Promised One his regards.

The supernatural. Joseph gives Levi the shirt that God once gave to Abraham, and when Levi puts the shirt over Jacob’s eyes, they are healed. Jacob remarks that this is the same shirt that saved Abraham from Nimrod’s fire. The old man appears to Jacob and tells him the shirt would not have worked for him before, because his belief in God’s authority still needed improvement — but it works for him now.

Jacob can smell Joseph’s “scent” before the brothers have even left Egypt.

An angel’s voice speaks to Joseph when his family enters the palace, and the old man who visited Joseph in the well appears to him again after the family is reunited.

Before he reveals his true identity, Joseph tells the brothers he knows all about how they treated their younger brother because the chalice that was found in Benjamin’s sack tells him everything; at one point he taps it and there are sounds of Joseph’s younger self crying on the soundtrack. It is not clear whether this is an actual instance of the supernatural or a cinematic device signifying Joseph’s own memories. But the biblical Joseph did claim that he used the cup for “divination” (Genesis 44:5,15).

Family dynamics. At last, Joseph’s son is clearly identified as Ephraim, which is his name in the Bible. (An earlier episode had called him “Aflatoon”.)

Canaanites. The Canaanites bid a tearful farewell to Jacob, and he says it is hard for him to say goodbye too — but perhaps Joseph can teach the Egyptians monotheism.

Egypt. As Jacob’s caravan makes its way through Egypt, Levi points out the pyramids and tells his father they were built over the graves of three Pharaohs — which is true!

The series ends 12 years into Akhenaten’s rule, at a time when Joseph is pushing for even more monotheistic reforms. The real-life Akhenaten ruled for 17 years, and his monotheistic reforms were undone by a general-turned-Pharaoh named Horemheb who took the throne roughly 30 years after Akhenaten’s death. As it happens, the Akhenaten of this series has a general named Horemheb who has privately expressed his ongoing belief in the Egyptian gods in earlier episodes — a foreshadowing of how Horemheb will undo Joseph’s reforms after Akhenaten is gone, presumably?

Geography. Joseph says he wants to settle his family in Goshen, which he says is near Memphis. Scholars are not sure where Goshen was exactly, but they tend to place it “in the eastern Delta of the Nile,” whereas Memphis was at the mouth of the Delta and possibly just a bit south of it (it is about 30km south of present-day Cairo).

Timeline issues. Joseph’s brothers say they’ve been facing famine for five years, and they say it will rain in two years as Joseph predicted. This confirms that we are still 12 years into Joseph’s rule over Egypt (7 years of plenty + 5 years of famine), which began when he was 30 years old — so Joseph should be 42 in these episodes.

Joseph says it has been 30 years since he last saw his father, and Akhenaten says it has been more than 30 years. This is accurate, as Joseph was 10 or 11 years old when his brothers sold him into slavery, so he has been away from his father for 31 or 32 years when these episodes begin. However, Jacob says a few times that his sons have caused him 40 years of pain; perhaps he is exaggerating because the pain is so great.

Nemisabu also says that Joseph was in prison for 12 years, but the actual number — spelled out very clearly by an angel at the time — was closer to eight years.

Travel times between Egypt and Canaan seem to have gotten shorter. Jacob, sitting in Canaan, says he can smell Joseph’s “scent” at a point in time when his sons are about to leave Egypt — and Levi arrives home in Canaan ten days later. In a previous episode, it was said that travel between Egypt and Canaan would take twenty days.

In the final episode, a messenger travels from the Egyptian border to Thebes by chariot, and it takes him six days to make the trip — but it takes the family an extra three days to arrive in Thebes, because their caravan moves more slowly.

Themes. Zuleikha doesn’t know at first if she wants to marry Joseph. She says she doesn’t need Joseph’s love if she has God’s love, but her love for God began with Joseph. Malek tells her there is a bond between human and divine love, so long as she doesn’t forget the divine love. Zuleikha later appears to Joseph, just after he has freed the Egyptians, and tells him she doesn’t want freedom; she wants to be “enslaved” to him. This is how she lets him know she is finally ready to be married to him.

Ties to other traditions. In his letter to the Egyptian governor (i.e. Joseph), Jacob mentions how Abraham was tested with Nimrod’s fire, and how Ishmael was almost sacrificed. These traditions are dramatized in Abraham, the Friend of God.

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 1:38:48 mark in this video:

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

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