'Vanity' in the Bible
They rejected His statutes and His covenant which He made with their fathers, as well as His warnings that he gave them. And they followed vanity [that is, false gods, idols] and became vain (empty-headed). They followed the [pagan practices of the] nations which surrounded them, although the Lord had commanded that they were not to do as they did.
“Let him not trust in vanity (emptiness, futility) and be led astray;For emptiness will be his reward [for such living].
“If I have walked with falsehood,Or if my foot has chased after deceit,
“Surely God will not listen to an empty cry [which lacks trust],Nor will the Almighty regard it.
O sons of men, how long will my honor and glory be [turned into] shame?How long will you [my enemies] love worthless (vain, futile) things and seek deception and lies? Selah.
Turn my eyes away from vanity [all those worldly, meaningless things that distract—let Your priorities be mine],And restore me [with renewed energy] in Your ways.
Man is like a mere breath;His days are like a shadow that passes away.
“Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher.“Vanity of vanities! All [that is done without God’s guidance] is vanity [futile, meaningless—a wisp of smoke, a vapor that vanishes, merely chasing the wind].”
I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity, a futile grasping and chasing after the wind.
I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure and gratification; so enjoy yourself and have a good time.” But behold, this too was vanity (futility, meaninglessness).
Then I considered all which my hands had done and labored to do, and behold, all was vanity and chasing after the wind and there was no profit (nothing of lasting value) under the sun.
Then I said to myself, “As it happens to the fool, so death will also happen to me. What use is it then for me to be extremely wise?” Then I said in my heart, “This too is vanity (meaningless).”
So I hated life, for the work which had been done under the sun caused me only great sorrow; because all is futility and chasing after the wind.
And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the fruit of my labor for which I have labored by acting wisely under the sun. This too is vanity (futility, self-conceit).
For there is a man who has labored with wisdom and knowledge and skill, yet gives his legacy to one who has not labored for it. This too is vanity and a great evil.
For all his days his work is painful and sorrowful; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is vanity (worthless).
For to the person who pleases Him God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy; but to the sinner He gives the work of gathering and collecting so that he may give to one who pleases God. This too is vanity and chasing after the wind.
For the [earthly] fate of the sons of men and the fate of animals is the same. As one dies, so dies the other; indeed, they all have the same breath and there is no preeminence or advantage for man [in and of himself] over an animal, for all is vanity.
I have seen that every [effort in] labor and every skill in work comes from man’s rivalry with his neighbor. This too is vanity (futility, false pride) and chasing after the wind.
Then I looked again at vanity under the sun [in one of its peculiar forms].
There was a certain man—without a dependent, having neither a child nor a brother, yet there was no end to all his labor. Indeed, his eyes were not satisfied with riches and he never asked, “For whom do I labor and deprive myself of pleasure?” This too is vanity (a wisp of smoke, self-conceit); yes, it is a painful effort and an unhappy task.
There is no end to all the people; to all who were before them. Yet those who come later will not be happy with him. Surely this also is vanity (emptiness) and chasing after the wind.
He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its gain. This too is vanity (emptiness).
a man to whom God has given riches and wealth and honor, so that he lacks nothing of all that he desires, yet God has not given him the power or capacity to enjoy them [all those things which are gifts from God], but a stranger [in whom he has no interest succeeds him and] enjoys them. This is vanity and it is a [cause of] great distress.
What the eyes see [enjoying what is available] is better than [craving] what the soul desires. This too is futility and chasing after the wind.
For like the crackling of [burning] thorn bushes under a pot,So is the laughter of the fool;And this too is vanity (futility).
I have seen everything during my [fleeting] days of futility; there is a righteous man who perishes in [spite of] his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who lives a long life in [spite of] his wickedness.
So then, I have seen the wicked buried, those who used to go in and out of the holy place [but did not thereby escape their doom], and they are [praised in spite of their evil and] soon forgotten in the city where they did such things. This too is futility (vanity, emptiness).
There is a meaningless and futile thing which is done on the earth: that is, there are righteous men whose gain is as though they were evil, and evil men whose gain is as though they were righteous. I say that this too is futility (meaningless, vain).
Yes, if a man should live many years, let him rejoice in them all; yet let him remember the days of darkness, for they will be many. All that is to come will be futility.
Therefore, remove sorrow and anger from your heart and put away pain from your body, for childhood and the prime of life are fleeting.
“Do not bring worthless offerings again,[Your] incense is repulsive to Me;[Your] New Moon and Sabbath [observances], the calling of assemblies—I cannot endure wickedness [your sin, your injustice, your wrongdoing] and [the squalor of] the festive assembly.
When the Lord has washed away the [moral] filth of the daughters of Zion and has cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning,
Thus says the Lord of hosts,“Do not listen to the words of the [false] prophets who prophesy to you.They are teaching you worthless things and are leading you into futility;They speak a vision of their own mind and imaginationAnd not [truth] from the mouth of the Lord.
“But do not resort to Bethel [to worship the golden calf]Nor enter [idolatrous] Gilgal,Nor cross over to Beersheba [and its idols];For Gilgal will certainly go into captivity and exile,And Bethel will come to nothing.
“If a man walking in a false spirit [spouting deception]Should lie and say,‘I will prophesy to you [O Israel] of wine and liquor (greed, sensual pleasure),’He would be the acceptable spokesman of this people.
For the teraphim (household idols) speak wickedness (emptiness, worthlessness),And the diviners see lying visionsAnd tell false dreams;They comfort in vain.Therefore the people wander like sheep,They are afflicted and suffer because there is no shepherd.
So this I say, and solemnly affirm together with the Lord [as in His presence], that you must no longer live as the [unbelieving] Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds [and in the foolishness and emptiness of their souls],