Hosea 4:12

12 My people consult a wooden idol, and a diviner’s rod speaks to them. A spirit of prostitution leads them astray; they are unfaithful to their God.

Hosea 4:12 in Other Translations

King James Version (KJV)
12 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.
English Standard Version (ESV)
12 My people inquire of a piece of wood, and their walking staff gives them oracles. For a spirit of whoredom has led them astray, and they have left their God to play the whore.
New Living Translation (NLT)
12 They ask a piece of wood for advice! They think a stick can tell them the future! Longing after idols has made them foolish. They have played the prostitute, serving other gods and deserting their God.
The Message Bible (MSG)
12 They ask questions of a dead tree, expect answers from a sturdy walking stick. Drunk on sex, they can't find their way home. They've replaced their God with their genitals.
American Standard Version (ASV)
12 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.
GOD'S WORD Translation (GW)
12 My people ask their wooden idols for help. A piece of wood tells them what to do. A spirit of prostitution leads them astray. They commit adultery by giving themselves to other gods.
Holman Christian Standard Bible (CSB)
12 My people consult their wooden [idols], and their divining rods inform them. For a spirit of promiscuity leads them astray; they act promiscuously in disobedience to their God.
New International Reader's Version (NIRV)
12 They ask a wooden statue of a god for advice. They expect to get answers from a stick of wood. They act like prostitutes. That leads them down the wrong path. I am their God. But they are not faithful to me.

Hosea 4:12 Meaning and Commentary

Hosea 4:12

My people ask counsel at their stocks
Or "at his wood" {a}, or stick; his wooden image, as the Targum; their wooden gods, their idols made of wood, mere stocks and blocks, without life or sense, and much less reason and understanding, and still less divinity. Reference is here had either to the matter of which an idol was made, being the trunk of a tree, or a block of wood; as the poet F2 introduces Priapus saying, "olim truncus eram ficulnus, inutile lignum": or to sticks of wood themselves, without being put into any form or shape; for so it is reported F3, that the ancient idolaters used to receive for gods, with great veneration, trees or pieces of wood, having the bark taken off; particularly the Carians worshipped for Diana a piece of wood, not hewed, squared, or planed F4: though the first seems rather to be the sense here; and either was extremely foolish. And yet such was the stupidity of this people, whom God had formerly chose for his people and had distinguished them by his favours from others, and they had professed themselves to be his people, and as yet were not utterly cast off, as to forsake him and his divine oracles, and all methods of knowing his will; as to ask counsel of such wooden deities in matters of moment and difficulty, what should be done by them, or concerning things to come. And their staff declareth unto them;
what methods are to be taken by them in the present case, or what shall come to pass, as they fancy; that is, either their idol, made of a staff or stick of wood, or a little image carried on a staff; such as probably were the teraphim they consulted, instead of the Urim and Thummim; and imagined they declared to them what they should do, or what would befall them. Kimchi's father interprets it of the false prophets on whom they depended, and whose declarations they received as oracles. Perhaps some respect is had to a sort of divination used among the Heathens by rods and staves, called "rhabdomancy", which the Jews had learnt of them; like that by arrows used by Nebuchadnezzar, ( Ezekiel 21:21 ) . This was performed by setting up a stick or staff, and as that fell, so they judged and determined what was to be done. The manner, according to Theophylact on the place, was this,

``they set up two rods, and muttered some verses and enchantments; and then the rods falling through the influence of demons, they considered how they fell, whether forward or backward, to the right or the left; and so gave answers to the foolish people, using the fall of the rods for signs.''
The Jews take this to be forbid by that negative precept, ( Deuteronomy 18:10 ) , "there shall not be found among you any that useth divination". So Jarchi and Baal Hatturim on that text explain a diviner by one that holds his staff; and the former adds and says, shall I go, or shall I not go? as it is said, "my people ask counsel at their stocks"; the manner of which they thus describe F5,
``when they are about to go on a journey, they inquire before they set out, i.e. whether it will be prosperous or not; and the diviner takes a branch of a tree, and takes off the bark on one side, and leaves it on the other, and then throws it out of his hand; if, when it falls, the bark is uppermost, he says, this is a man; then he casts it again, and if the white is uppermost, this is a woman; to a man, and after that a woman, this is a good sign, and he goes his journey, or does what be desires to do: but if the white appears first, and after that the bark, then he says, to a woman, and after that a man, and he forbears (that is, to go on his journey, or do what he desired): but if the bark is uppermost in both (throws), or the white uppermost in both, to a man after a man, and a woman after a woman, then his journey (as to the success of it) is between both; and so they say they do in the land of Slavonia.''
And from the Slavonians, Grotius says, the Germans took this way of divination, of which Tacitus F6 gives an account; and it seems by him that the Chaldeans also had it, from whom the Jews might have it. This way of divination by the staff is a little differently given in Hascuni:

F7 the diviner measures his staff with his finger, or with his hand; one time he says, I will go; another time, I will not go; but if it happens, at the end of the staff, I will not go, he goes not. For the spirit of whoredom hath caused them to err;
a violent inclination and bias of mind to idolatry, which is spiritual adultery, and a strong affection for it, stirred up by an evil spirit, the devil; which so wrought upon them, and influenced them, as to cause them to wander from the true God, and his worship, as follows: and they have gone a whoring from under their God;
``erred from the worship of their God,''
as the Targum; from the true God, who stood in the relation of a husband to them; but, led by a spirit of error, they departed from him, and committed spiritual adultery, that is, idolatry; which is explained and enlarged upon in the next verse.
F1 (wueb) "in ligno suo", V. L. Montanus, Calvin; "liguum suum", Pagninus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator.
F2 Horat. Sermon. l. 1. Satyr. 8.
F3 Alexand. ab Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 6. c. 26.
F4 Arnobius adv. Gentes, l. 6. p. 232.
F5 Moses Kotsensis praecept. neg. 52.
F6 De Moribus German. c. 10.
F7 Apud Drusium in Deut. xviii. 10.

Hosea 4:12 In-Context

10 “They will eat but not have enough; they will engage in prostitution but not flourish, because they have deserted the LORDto give themselves
11 to prostitution; old wine and new wine take away their understanding.
12 My people consult a wooden idol, and a diviner’s rod speaks to them. A spirit of prostitution leads them astray; they are unfaithful to their God.
13 They sacrifice on the mountaintops and burn offerings on the hills, under oak, poplar and terebinth, where the shade is pleasant. Therefore your daughters turn to prostitution and your daughters-in-law to adultery.
14 “I will not punish your daughters when they turn to prostitution, nor your daughters-in-law when they commit adultery, because the men themselves consort with harlots and sacrifice with shrine prostitutes— a people without understanding will come to ruin!

Cross References 5

Scripture quoted by permission.  Quotations designated (NIV) are from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®.  NIV®.  Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica.  All rights reserved worldwide.