SINCE THE EMERGENCE OF A CRITICAL CONSENSUS IN OLD TESTAMENT study in the nineteenth century, it has been agreed that the prophecy of Amos, preserved as the book of Amos, provides the first clear, uncontested evidence that Israel had arrived at ethical monotheism.1 Indeed, liberal developmentalism came to regard the words of Amos as the first utterance of “Israel’s normative faith.” This scholarly consensus concerning “ethical monotheism” was viewed in such interpretation as a great positive victory over (a) polytheism, which was primitive and ignoble, and (b) cultic religion, which smacked of magic and manipulation. That is, classical liberal scholarship, with its unabashed Christian commitments, wedded to a developmental notion of Israel’s faith, viewed Amos as the clear emergence of what is right and good and noble, which would eventuate in Christianity. There could be no going back on this monotheism.2
Nineteenth-century developmentalism did not so readily recognize that ethical monotheism, insofar as that is a correct judgment about Amos, constituted not only a great theological gain in the history of Israelite religion, but also brought with it an enormous ideological temptation, a temptation most often readily accepted. It was proudly and doxologically affirmed that Yahweh was one, or that Yahweh was the only one,3 and moreover, that this one and only Yahweh had as a partner a one and only people Israel, so that there was taken to be a complete commensurability between the “onlyness” of Yahweh and the “onlyness” of Israel.4 And where the “onlyness” of Yahweh has as an adjunct affirmation namely the onlyness of Israel, it is self-evident that ideological temptation to absolutize Israel along with an absolute Yahweh is almost irresistible.
We may consider two impetuses for this ideological extension of the “onlyness” of Yahweh to include the “onlyness” of Israel, which I shall term “mono-ideology.”5 The first impetus, not at all surprising, is the Davidic-Solomonic, royal ideology that insisted upon a close connection between Yahweh and royal Israel as a way of giving theological legitimation to political power. Indeed, Rainer Albertz has suggested that monotheism becomes an indispensable counterpart to the claims of monarchy, and that monotheism in Israel emerges only as needed for monarchy.6
This ideological combination of one God and one people is evident in David’s response to Yahweh’s legitimating oracle uttered by Samuel