According to Robert Alter, the ending of the book of Joshua preserved in the Septuagint is more compelling than the ending preserved in the Masoretic text (Ancient Israel [New York: Norton, 2013] 102 - I review the volume here). The verses in question: Josh 24:29-33.
The conclusion of the book of Joshua in the Septuagint casts a shadow over the preceding conquest and anticipates the reversals recounted in the book of Judges. This dark ending, Alter notes, coheres well with Joshua’s proximate concluding remarks (Josh 24:19-20). Better, in fact, than the narrative conclusion of the book of Joshua preserved in the Masoretic text.
Text and Context
The coming to terms with the past at the conclusion of LXX Joshua satisfactorily integrates the narrative of the conquest into the larger structure of the Primary History (Gen-2 Kgs). The self-determination the conquest was meant to make possible comes to an end less than a generation after it was achieved.
The foreign domination to which Israel is subject is due to her proclivity to deprive herself of her original charism, faithfulness to her God and that God’s unique instructions. Foreign domination is the inevitable result of Israel’s assimilation to the ways and means of her neighbors.
Israel's loss of identity and consequent domination by others is a leitmotif of the Primary History. The same theme recurs at the book of Joshua’s conclusion preserved in the Septuagint. Right where we might have expected it.
A Translation of the Hebrew on which LXX Joshua was Based
The translation I offer is not of the Greek per se, but of the Hebrew on which it is based. The names therefore, the idioms and syntactical constructions, are rendered on the basis of the Hebrew. The Hebrew is a reconstruction. Retroversion is a heuristic exercise. There is no better way to sharpen one’s language and text-critical skills than to back-translate from Greek to Hebrew and vice versa.
In one case the Greek is plausibly understood to be based on a corrupt text. I have placed the reconstructed corrupt text in Hebrew in brackets; a reconstruction of the putative original lies outside of brackets, and is represented in translation.
LXX Josh 24:33a is a partial doublet of LXX 24:33 = MT 24:33. I take it to be an ancient alternative to 24:33, a variant text then folded in to create a composite text. I omit it in translation, along with another smaller scale doublet: "Ashtarot." "High priest" after Eleazar ben-Aaron has no equivalent in MT; it is probably a secondary amplification. I set it to one side.
MT Josh 24:31 = LXX 24:29. The relocation of this positive note from the prequel to the book's conclusion to the heart of the book's conclusion, along with the omission of the last paragraph of the conclusion (see below), serves to provide the book, in the version found in MT, with a happy ending.
They Did Not Live Happily Ever After
The conclusion to the book of Joshua preserved in the Septuagint lacks a happy ending. A completely happy ending is not to be expected in biblical literature. The Bible, as readers of all persuasions know, is truer to life than that.
The book of Joshua ended in the following way, according to a tradition that is arguably more faithful to the larger intent of the Primary History than the end of the book of Joshua we are familiar with from the Masoretic text.
Then the Lord's servant Joshua ben-Nun died, at the age of a hundred and ten. They buried him on the edge of his inheritance in Timnath-serah in Mount Ephraim to the north of Mount Gaash. There they put beside him, in the tomb where they buried him, the stone knives by which he circumcised the Israelites at Gilgal who came out of Egypt, as the Lord charged them. There they are to this day.
As for the bones of Joseph, the Israelites brought them up from Egypt and interred them in Shechem in the plot of open field that Jacob acquired from the sons of Hamor who inhabit Shechem for one hundred ewe-lambs, and that he gave to Joseph as an inheritance.
Then it was Eleazar ben-Aaron who died. He was buried on the hill of his son Phineas that was given him in Mount Ephraim.
As for the Israelites, they went each to his own place and village. The Israelites worshipped Astarte and the gods of the nations roundabout, and the Lord gave them into the hand of Eglon king of Moab. He ruled them for 18 years.
The retroversion of LXX Josh 24:30-33 on which the above translation is based goes like this:
|Καὶ ἐγένετο μετʼ ἐκεῖνα||וַיְהִי אַחֲרֵי הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה|
|καὶ ἀπέθανεν Ἰησοῦς υἱὸς Ναυη δοῦλος κυρίου||וַיָּמָת יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בִּן־נוּן עֶבֶד יהוה|
|ἑκατὸν δέκα ἐτῶν.||בֶּן־מֵאָה וָעֶשֶׂר שָׁנִים|
|Καὶ ἔθαψαν αὐτὸν||וַיִּקְבְּרוּ אֹתוֹ|
|πρὸς τοῖς ὁρίοις τοῦ κλήρου αὐτοῦ||אֶל־גְבוּל נַחֲלָתוֹ|
|ἐν τῷ ὄρει τῷ Εφραιμ||בְּהַר־אֶפְרָיִם|
|ἀπὸ βορρᾶ τοῦ ὄρους Γαας·||מִצְּפוֹן לְהַר־גָּעַשׁ|
|ἐκεῖ ἔθηκαν μετʼ αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸ μνῆμα,||שָׁמָּה שָׂמוּ עִמּוֹ אֶל־הַקֶּבֶר|
|εἰς ὃ ἔθαψαν αὐτὸν ἐκεῖ,||אֲשֶׁר קָבְרוּ אֹתוֹ שָׁמָּה|
|τὰς μαχαίρας τὰς πετρίνας,||אֶת הַחַרְבוֹת הַצֻּרִים|
ἐν αἷς περιέτεμεν τοὺς υἱοὺς Ισραηλ
|אֲשֶׁר מָל בָּהֶם אֶת־בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל
|ὅτε ἐξήγαγεν αὐτοὺς ἐξ Αἰγύπτου,||בהציאם] הַיֹּצְאִים מִמִּצְרַיִם]|
|καθὰ συνέταξεν αὐτοῖς κύριος,||כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּה לָהֶם יהוה
|καὶ ἐκεῖ εἰσιν ἕως τῆς σήμερον ἡμέρας.||וַיִּהְיוּ שָׁם עַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה|
|Καὶ τὰ ὀστᾶ Ιωσηφ||וְאֶת־עַצְמוֹת יוֹסֵף|
|ἀνήγαγον οἱ υἱοὶ Ισραηλ ἐξ Αἰγύπτου||הֶעֱלוּ בְנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵל מִמִּצְרַיִם|
καὶ κατώρυξαν ἐν Σικιμοις ἐν τῇ μερίδι τοῦ ἀγροῦ,
|וַיִּקְבְּרוּ בִשְׁכֶם בְּחֶלְקַת הַשָּׂדֶה|
|οὗ ἐκτήσατο Ιακωβ παρὰ τῶν Αμορραίων||אֲשֶׁר קָנָה יַעֲקֹב מֵאֵת בְּנֵי־חֲמוֹר|
|τῶν κατοικούντων ἐν Σικιμοις||הַיֹשְבִים בִּשְׁכֶם|
|ἀμνάδων ἑκατὸν||בְּמֵאָה קְשִׂיטָה|
|καὶ ἔδωκεν αὐτὴν Ιωσηφ ἐν μερίδι.||וַיִּתְנָהּ לְיוֹסֵף לְנַחֲלָה|
|Καὶ ἐγένετο μετὰ ταῦτα||וַיְהִי אַחֲרֵי הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה|
|καὶ Ελεαζαρ υἱὸς Ααρων [ὁ ἀρχιερεὺς] ἐτελεύτησεν||וְאֶלְעָזָר בֶּן־אַהֲרֹן מֵת|
|καὶ ἐτάφη ἐν Γαβααθ Φινεες τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ,||וַיִּקָּבֵר בְּגִבְעַת פִּינְחָס בְּנוֹ|
|ἣν ἔδωκεν αὐτῷ ἐν τῷ ὄρει τῷ Εφραιμ.||אֲשֶׁר נִתַּן־לוֹ בְּהַר אֶפְרָיִם|
|οἱ δὲ υἱοὶ Ισραηλ||וְוְאֶת־בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל|
ἀπήλθοσαν ἕκαστος εἰς τὸν τόπον αὐτῶν καὶ εἰς τὴν ἑαυτῶν πόλιν.
|הָלְכוּ אִישׁ לִמְקֹמוֹ וּלְעִירוֹ|
καὶ ἐσέβοντο οἱ υἱοὶ Ισραηλ τὴν Ἀστάρτην [καὶ Ασταρωθ]
|וַיַּעַבְדוּ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵלְ אֶת־עַשְׁתֹּרֶת|
|καὶ τοὺς θεοὺς τῶν ἐθνῶν τῶν κύκλῳ αὐτῶν·||וְאֶת־אֱלֹהֵי הָעַמִּים אֲשֶׁר סְבִיבוֹתֵיהֶם|
καὶ παρέδωκεν αὐτοὺς κύριος εἰς χεῖρας Εγλωμ τῷ βασιλεῖ Μωαβ,
|וַיִּתְּנֵם יהוה בְּיַד־עֶגְלוֹן מֶלֶךְ־מוֹאָב|
|καὶ ἐκυρίευσεν αὐτῶν ἔτη δέκα ὀκτώ.||וַיִּמְשׁל בָהֶם שְׁמוֹנֶה עֶשְׂרֵה שָׁנָה|
The evidence in hand suggests that the Primary History, Genesis to 2 Kings, was revised over a half millennium in large and small ways, before and after its component parts constituted a single narrative, in the 8th to 3rd centuries BCE. In the case of the contents of the book of Joshua, LXX Joshua represents one extant edition, MT Joshua another. At the same time, neither of the extant texts is pristine in the sense of being free from clarifying additions and accidental subtractions of the kind that are the common lot of any text transmitted by scribes for centuries. For a discussion of LXX and MT Joshua by Emanuel Tov, a master of the discipline, go here.
"To this day" the flint knives by which Joshua circumcised the Israelites were known to be buried with him in Ephraim. The perspective of this passage seems to reflect a time in which Shechem, Timnath-Serah, and Gilgal, though not in the territory of the kingdom of Judah, were places of note with the burial site of Joshua a location one might visit. A date of composition for the conclusion of the book of Joshua presented above in the late 7th to early 6th century BCE, after the death of Josiah, is plausible.