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Hosea 4:12 [study!]

American Standard Version (ASV 1901) [2]
— My people ask counsel at their stock, and their staff declareth unto them; for the spirit of whoredom hath caused them to err, and they have played the harlot, [departing] from under their God.
King James Version (KJV 1769)
— My people ask counsel at their stocks, and their staff declareth unto them: for the spirit of whoredoms hath caused [them] to err, and they have gone a whoring from under their God.
New American Standard Bible (NASB ©1995)
— My people consult their wooden idol, and their [diviner’s] wand informs them; For a spirit of harlotry has led [them] astray, And they have played the harlot, [departing] from their God.
Webster's Revision of the KJB (WEB 1833)
— My people ask counsel at their stocks, and their staff declareth to them: for the spirit of lewdness hath caused [them] to err, and they have gone astray from under their God.
Darby's Translation (DBY 1890)
— My people ask counsel of their stock, and their staff declareth unto them; for the spirit of whoredoms causeth [them] to err, and they have gone a whoring from under their God:
Rotherham's Emphasized Bible (EBR 1902)
— My people, of their Wood, do ask,—Let, their Staff, then tell them,—for, the spirit of unchastity, hath led them astray, and they have unchastely departed from under their God.
Young's Literal Translation (YLT 1898)
— My people at its staff asketh and its rod declareth to it, For a spirit of whoredoms hath caused to err, And they go a-whoring from under their God.
Douay-Rheims Challoner Revision (DR 1750)
— My people have consulted their stocks, and their staff hath declared unto them: for the spirit of fornication hath deceived them, and they have committed fornication against their God.
Original King James Bible (AV 1611) [2]
— My people aske counsel at their stocks, and their staffe declareth vnto them: for the spirit of whordomes hath caused [them] to erre, and they haue gone a whoring from vnder their God.
Brenton Greek Septuagint (LXX, Restored Names)
— They asked counsel by [means of] signs, and they reported answer to them by their staves: they have gone astray in a spirit of whoredom, and gone grievously a-whoring from their God.
Full Hebrew Names / Holy Name KJV (2008) [2] [3]
— My people ask counsel at their stocks, and their staff declareth unto them: for the spirit of whoredoms hath caused [them] to err, and they have gone a whoring from under their Elohim.

Strong's Numbers & Hebrew NamesHebrew Old TestamentColor-Code/Key Word Studies
My people 5971
{5971} Prime
From H6004; a people (as a congregated unit); specifically a tribe (as those of Israel); hence (collectively) troops or attendants; figuratively a flock.
ask y7592
[7592] Standard
A primitive root; to inquire; by implication to request; by extension to demand.
<8799> Grammar
Stem - Qal (See H8851)
Mood - Imperfect (See H8811)
Count - 19885
counsel x7592
(7592) Complement
A primitive root; to inquire; by implication to request; by extension to demand.
at their stocks, 6086
{6086} Prime
From H6095; a tree (from its firmness); hence wood (plural sticks).
and their staff 4731
{4731} Prime
From an unused root meaning apparently to germinate; a shoot, that is, stick (with leaves on, or for walking, striking, guiding, divining).
declareth 5046
{5046} Prime
A primitive root; properly to front, that is, stand boldly out opposite; by implication (causatively), to manifest; figuratively to announce (always by word of mouth to one present); specifically to expose, predict, explain, praise.
<8686> Grammar
Stem - Hiphil (See H8818)
Mood - Imperfect (See H8811)
Count - 4046
unto them: for x3588
(3588) Complement
A primitive particle (the full form of the prepositional prefix) indicating causal relations of all kinds, antecedent or consequent; (by implication) very widely used as a relative conjugation or adverb; often largely modified by other particles annexed.
the spirit 7307
{7307} Prime
From H7306; wind; by resemblance breath, that is, a sensible (or even violent) exhalation; figuratively life, anger, unsubstantiality; by extension a region of the sky; by resemblance spirit, but only of a rational being (including its expression and functions).
of whoredoms 2183
{2183} Prime
From H2181; adultery; figuratively idolatry.
hath caused [them] to err, 8582
{8582} Prime
A primitive root; to vacillate, that is, reel or stray (literally or figuratively); also causatively of both.
<8689> Grammar
Stem - Hiphil (See H8818)
Mood - Perfect (See H8816)
Count - 2675
and they have gone a whoring 2181
{2181} Prime
A primitive root (highly fed and therefore wanton); to commit adultery (usually of the female, and less often of simple forniciation, rarely of involuntary ravishment); figuratively to commit idolatry (the Jewish people being regarded as the spouse of Jehovah).
<8799> Grammar
Stem - Qal (See H8851)
Mood - Imperfect (See H8811)
Count - 19885
from under x4480
(4480) Complement
For H4482; properly a part of; hence (prepositionally), from or out of in many senses.
(8478) Complement
From the same as H8430; the bottom (as depressed); only adverbially below (often with prepositional prefix underneath), in lieu of, etc.
their lhm אֱלֹהִים. 430
{0430} Prime
Plural of H0433; gods in the ordinary sense; but specifically used (in the plural thus, especially with the article) of the supreme God; occasionally applied by way of deference to magistrates; and sometimes as a superlative.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary

Hosea 4:12

_ _ Instances of their understanding (“heart”) being “taken away.”

_ _ stocks — wooden idols (Jeremiah 2:27; Habakkuk 2:19).

_ _ staff — alluding to divination by rods (see on Ezekiel 21:21, Ezekiel 21:22). The diviner, says Rosenmuller, threw a rod from him, which was stripped of its bark on one side, not on the other: if the bare side turned uppermost, it was a good omen; if the side with the bark, it was a bad omen. The Arabs used two rods, the one marked God bids, the other, God forbids; whichever came out first, in drawing them out of a case, gave the omen for, or against, an undertaking.

_ _ declareth — that is, is consulted to inform them of future events.

_ _ spirit of whoredoms — a general disposition on the part of all towards idolatry (Hosea 5:4).

_ _ err — go astray from the true God.

_ _ from under their God — They have gone away from God under whom they were, as a wife is under the dominion of her husband.

Matthew Henry's Commentary

Hosea 4:12-19

_ _ In these verses we have, as before,

_ _ I. The sins charged upon the people of Israel, for which God had a controversy with them, and they are,

_ _ 1. Spiritual whoredom, or idolatry. They have in them a spirit of whoredoms, a strong inclination to that sin; the bent and bias of their hearts are that way; it is their own iniquity; they are carried out towards it with an unaccountable violence, and this causes them to err. Note, The errors and mistakes of the judgment are commonly owing to the corrupt affections; men therefore have a good opinion of sin, because they have a disposition towards it. And having such erroneous notions of idols, and such passionate motions towards them, no marvel that with such a head and such a heart they have gone a whoring from under their God, Hosea 4:12. They ought to have been in subjection to him as their head and husband, to have been under his guidance and command, but they revolted from their allegiance, and put themselves under the guidance and protection of false gods. So (Hosea 4:15) Israel has played the harlot; their conduct in the worship of their idols was like that of a harlot, wanton and impudent. And (Hosea 4:16), Israel slideth back as a backsliding heifer, as an untamed heifer (so some), or as a perverse or refractory one (so others), as a heifer that is turned loose runs madly about the pasture, or, if put under the yoke (which seems rather to be alluded to here), will draw back instead of going forward, will struggle to get her neck out of the yoke and her feet out of the furrow. Thus unruly, ungovernable, untractable, were the people of Israel. They had begun to draw in the yoke of God's ordinances, but they drew back, as children of Belial, that will not endure the yoke; and when the prophets were sent with the goads of reproof, to put them forward, they kicked against the pricks, and ran backwards. The sum of all is (Hosea 4:17), Ephraim is joined to idols, is perfectly wedded to them; his affections are glued to them, and his heart is upon them. There are two instances given of their spiritual whoredom, in both which they gave that honour to their idols which is due to God only: — (1.) They consulted them as oracles, and used those arts of divination which they had learned from their idolatrous priests (Hosea 4:12): My people ask counsel at their stocks, their wooden gods; they apply to them for advice and direction in what they should do and for information concerning the event. They say to a stock, Thou art my father (Jeremiah 2:27); and, if it were indeed a father, it were worthy of this honour; but it was a great affront to God, who was indeed their Father, and whose lively oracles they had among them, with which they had liberty to consult at any time, thus to ask counsel at their stocks. And they expect that their staff should declare to them what course they should take and what the event should be. It is probable that this refers to some wicked methods of divination used among the Gentiles, and which the Jews learned from them, by a piece of wood, or by a staff, like Nebuchadnezzar's divining by his arrows, Ezekiel 21:21. Note, Those who forsake the oracles of God, to take their measures from the world and the flesh, do in effect but consult with their stocks and their staves. (2.) They offered sacrifice to them as gods, whose favour they wanted and whose wrath they dreaded and deprecated (Hosea 4:13): They sacrifice to them, to atone and pacify them, and burn incense to them, to please and gratify them, and hope by both to recommend themselves to them. God had pitched upon the place where he would record his name; but they, having forsaken that, chose places for their irreligious rites which pleased their own fancies; they chose, [1.] High places, upon the tops of the mountains and upon the hills, foolishly imagining that the height of the ground gave them some advantage in their approaches towards heaven. [2.] Shady places, under oaks, and poplars, and elms, because the shadow thereof is pleasant to them, especially in those hot countries, and therefore they thought it was pleasing to their gods; or they fancied that a thick shade befriends contemplation, possesses the mind with something of awe, and therefore is proper for devotion.

_ _ 2. Corporal whoredom is another crime here charged upon them: They have committed whoredom continually, Hosea 4:18. They drove a trade of uncleanness; it was not a single act now and then, but their constant practice, as it is of many that have eyes full of adultery and which cannot cease from that sin, 2 Peter 2:14. Now the abominable filthiness and lewdness that was found in Israel is here spoken of, (1.) As a concomitant of their idolatry; their false gods drew them to it; for the devil whom they worshipped, though a spirit, is an unclean spirit. Those that worshipped idols were separated with harlots, and they sacrificed with harlots; for because they liked not to retain God in their knowledge, but dishonoured him, therefore God gave them up to vile affections, by the indulging of which they dishonoured themselves, Romans 1:24, Romans 1:28. (2.) As a punishment of it. The men that worshipped idols were separated with harlots that attended the idolatrous rites, as in the worship of Baal-peor, Numbers 25:1, Numbers 25:2. To punish them for that God gave up their wives and daughters to the like vile affections: They committed whoredom and adultery (Hosea 4:13), which could not but be a great grief and reproach to their husbands and parents; for those that are not chaste themselves desire to have their wives and daughters so. But thus they might read their sin in their punishment, as David's adultery was punished in the debauching of his concubines by his own son, 2 Samuel 12:11. Note, When the same sin in others is made men's grief and affliction which they have themselves been guilty of they must own that the Lord is righteous.

_ _ 3. The perverting of justice, Hosea 4:18. Their rulers (be it spoken to their shame) do love, Give ye, that is, they love bribes, and have it continually in their mouths, Give, give. They are given to filthy lucre; every one that has any business with them must expect to be asked, What will you give? Though, as rulers, they are bound by office to do justice, yet none can have justice done them without a fee; and you may be sure that for a fee they will do injustice. Note, The love of money is the ruin of equity and the root of all iniquity. But of all men it is a shame for rulers (who should be men fearing God and hating covetousness) to love Give ye. Perhaps this is intended in that part of the charge here, Their drink is sour; it is dead; it is gone. Justice, duly administered, is refreshing, like drink to the thirsty, but when it is perverted, and rulers take rewards either to acquit the guilty or to condemn the innocent, the drink is sour; they turn judgment into wormwood, Amos 5:7. Or it may refer in general to the depraved morals of the whole nation; they had lost all their life and spirit, and were as offensive to God as dead and sour drink is to us. See Deuteronomy 32:32, Deuteronomy 32:33.

_ _ II. The tokens of God's wrath against them for their sins. 1. Their wives and daughters should not be punished for the injury and disgrace they did to their families (Hosea 4:14): I will not punish your daughters; and, not being punished for their sin, they would go on in it. Note, The impunity of one sinner is sometimes made the punishment of another. Or, “I will not punish them as I will punish you; for you must own, as Judah did concerning his daughter-in-law, that they are more righteous than you,Genesis 38:26. 2. They themselves should prosper for a while, but their prosperity should help to destroy them. It comes in as a token of God's wrath (Hosea 4:16): The Lord will feed them as a lamb in a large place; they shall have a fat pasture, and a large one, in which they shall be fed to the full, and fed of the best, but it shall be only to prepare them for the slaughter, as a lamb is that is so fed. If they wax fat and kick, they do but wax fat for the butcher. But others make them feed as a lamb on the common, a large place indeed, but where it has short grass and lies exposed. The Shepherd of Israel will turn them both out of his pastures and out of his protection. 3. No means should be used to bring them to repentance (Hosea 4:17): “Ephraim is joined to idols, is in love with them and addicted to them, and therefore let him alone, as Hosea 4:4, Let no man reprove him. Let him be given up to his own heart's lusts, and walk in his own counsel; we would have healed him, and he would not be healed, therefore forsake him,” See what their end will be, Deuteronomy 32:20. Note, It is a sad and sore judgment for any man to be let alone in sin, for God to say concerning a sinner, “He is joined to his idols, the world and the flesh; he is incurably proud, covetous, or profane, an incurable drunkard or adulterer; let him alone; conscience, let him alone; minister, let him alone; providences, let him alone. Let nothing awaken him till the flames of hell do it.” The father corrects not the rebellious son any more when he determines to disinherit him. “Those that are not disturbed in their sin will be destroyed for their sin.” 4. They should be hurried away with a swift and shameful destruction (Hosea 4:19): The wind has bound her up in her wings, to carry her away into captivity, suddenly, violently, and irresistibly; he shall take them away as with a whirlwind, Psalms 58:9. And then they shall be ashamed because of their sacrifices, ashamed of their sin in offering sacrifice to idols, ashamed of their folly in putting themselves to such an expense upon gods that have no power to help them, and thereby making that God their enemy who has almighty power to destroy them. Note, There are sacrifices that men will one day be ashamed of. Those that have sacrificed their time, strength, honour, and all their comforts, to the world and the flesh, will shortly be ashamed of it. Yea, and those that bring to God blind, and lame, and heartless sacrifices, will be ashamed of them too.

_ _ III. The warning given to Judah not to sin after the similitude of Israel's transgression. It is said in the close of Hosea 4:14, Those that do not understand shall fall; those must needs fall that do not understand how to avoid, or get over, the stumbling-blocks they meet with (and therefore let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall), particularly the two tribes (Hosea 4:15): Though thou, Israel, play the harlot, yet let not Judah offend. Though Israel be given to idolatry, yet let not Judah take the infection. Now, 1. This was a very needful caution. The men of Israel were brethren, and near neighbours, to the men of Judah; Israel was more numerous, and at this time in a prosperous condition, and therefore there was danger lest the men of Judah should learn their way and get a snare to their souls. Note, The nearer we are to the infection of sin the more need we have to stand upon our guard. 2. It was a very rational caution: “Let Israel play the harlot, yet let not Judah do so; for Judah has greater means of knowledge than Israel, has the temple and priesthood, and a king of the house of David; from Judah Shiloh is to come; and for Judah God has reserved great blessings in store; therefore let not Judah offend, for more is expected from them than from Israel, they will have more to answer for if they do offend, and from them God will take it more unkindly. If Israel play the harlot, let not Judah do so too, for then God will have no professing people in the world.” God bespeaks Judah here, as Christ does the twelve, when many turned their backs upon him, Will you also go away? John 6:67. Note, Those that have hitherto kept their integrity should, for that reason, still hold it fast, even in times of general apostasy. Now, to preserve Judah from offending as Israel had done, two rules are here given: — (1.) That they might not be guilty of idolatry they must keep at a distance from the places of idolatry: Come not you unto Gilgal, where all their wickedness was (Hosea 9:15; Hosea 12:11); there they multiplied transgression (Amos 4:4); and perhaps they contracted a veneration for that place because there it was said to Joshua, The place where thou standest is holy ground (Joshua 5:15); therefore they are forbidden to enter into Gilgal, Amos 5:5. And for the same reason they must not go up to Bethel, here called the house of vanity, for so Bethaven signifies, not the house of God, as Bethel signifies. Note, Those that would be kept from sin, and not fall into the devil's hands, must studiously avoid the occasions of sin and not come upon the devil's ground. (2.) That they might not be guilty of idolatry they must take heed of profaneness, and not swear, The Lord liveth. They are commanded to swear, The Lord liveth in truth and righteousness (Jeremiah 4:2); and therefore that which is here forbidden is swearing so in untruth and unrighteousness, swearing rashly and lightly, or falsely and with deceit, or swearing by the Lord and the idol, Zephaniah 1:5. Note, Those that would be steady in their adherence to God must possess themselves with an awe and reverence of God, and always speak of him with solemnity and seriousness; for those that can make a jest of the true God will make a god of any thing.

John Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Hosea 4:12

Stocks — Wooden statues. The spirit of whoredom — A heart ensnared with whoredoms, spiritual and corporal. Caused them to err — Hath blinded, and deceived them.

Geneva Bible Translation Notes

Hosea 4:12

My (n) people ask counsel at their stocks, and their staff declareth unto them: for the (o) spirit of whoredoms hath caused [them] to err, and they have gone a whoring from under their God.

(n) Thus he speaks by derision in calling them his people, who now because of their sins they were not his people: for they sought help from stocks or wooden images and sticks or idols.

(o) They are carried away with madness.

Cross-Reference Topical ResearchStrong's Concordance

Jeremiah 2:27 Saying to a stock, Thou [art] my father; and to a stone, Thou hast brought me forth: for they have turned [their] back unto me, and not [their] face: but in the time of their trouble they will say, Arise, and save us.
Jeremiah 10:8 But they are altogether brutish and foolish: the stock [is] a doctrine of vanities.
Ezekiel 21:21 For the king of Babylon stood at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination: he made [his] arrows bright, he consulted with images, he looked in the liver.
Habakkuk 2:19 Woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake; to the dumb stone, Arise, it shall teach! Behold, it [is] laid over with gold and silver, and [there is] no breath at all in the midst of it.


Hosea 5:4 They will not frame their doings to turn unto their God: for the spirit of whoredoms [is] in the midst of them, and they have not known the LORD.
Isaiah 44:18-20 They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; [and] their hearts, that they cannot understand. ... He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, [Is there] not a lie in my right hand?
Micah 2:11 If a man walking in the spirit and falsehood do lie, [saying], I will prophesy unto thee of wine and of strong drink; he shall even be the prophet of this people.
2 Thessalonians 2:9-11 [Even him], whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, ... And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:


Hosea 9:1 Rejoice not, O Israel, for joy, as [other] people: for thou hast gone a whoring from thy God, thou hast loved a reward upon every cornfloor.
Leviticus 17:7 And they shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils, after whom they have gone a whoring. This shall be a statute for ever unto them throughout their generations.
Leviticus 20:5 Then I will set my face against that man, and against his family, and will cut him off, and all that go a whoring after him, to commit whoredom with Molech, from among their people.
Numbers 15:39 And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the LORD, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring:
Deuteronomy 31:16 And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers; and this people will rise up, and go a whoring after the gods of the strangers of the land, whither they go [to be] among them, and will forsake me, and break my covenant which I have made with them.
2 Chronicles 21:13 But hast walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and hast made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to go a whoring, like to the whoredoms of the house of Ahab, and also hast slain thy brethren of thy father's house, [which were] better than thyself:
Psalms 73:27 For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee.
Jeremiah 3:1-3 They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man's, shall he return unto her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted? but thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the LORD. ... Therefore the showers have been withholden, and there hath been no latter rain; and thou hadst a whore's forehead, thou refusedst to be ashamed.
Ezekiel 16:1-63 Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, ... That thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord GOD.
Ezekiel 23:1-49 The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying, ... And they shall recompense your lewdness upon you, and ye shall bear the sins of your idols: and ye shall know that I [am] the Lord GOD.
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Lv 17:7; 20:5. Nu 15:39. Dt 31:16. 2Ch 21:13. Ps 73:27. Is 44:18. Jr 2:27; 3:1; 10:8. Ezk 16:1; 21:21; 23:1. Ho 5:4; 9:1. Mi 2:11. Hab 2:19. 2Th 2:9.

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