Thursday, August 4, 2011

Joseph's Dreamcoat Journey: In Prison, Then Out - on a Whim

Sentencing in the Ancient world was often an exercise in arbitrary will. The decision about whether to incarcerate, and for how long, depended almost entirely upon the discretion of those in power.

Inevitably, that discretion was often completely capricous. Witness the experience of the biblical character Joseph – he of the Thomas Mann novel and the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.

Joseph is framed by Potiphar’s wife on a bogus rape charge, and Potiphar sends him, as the Monopoly phrase goes, directly to jail.

Yet when Joseph proves useful to Pharaoh in interpreting dreams, he is quickly released. Expedited executive clemency, we might call it in today’s parlance.

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