Vanity, Vanities


van'-i-ti, van'-i-tiz (hebhel, 'awen, shaw'; kenos; mataiotes):

The words "vain," "vanity," "vanities" are frequent in the Bible. Their idea is almost exclusively that of "evanescence," "emptiness," including "idolatry" and "wickedness" as being not only evil but vain and empty things. They also signify falseness. The chief word translated "vanity," "vanities" is hebhel, a "breath of air, or of the mouth," often applied to idolatry (Deuteronomy 32:21; 1 Kings 16:13; Psalms 31:6; Jeremiah 8:19, etc.); to man's days and to man himself (Job 7:16; Psalms 39:5,11, etc.); to man's thoughts (Psalms 94:11); to wealth and treasures (Proverbs 13:11; 21:6); to everything, in Ecclesiastes, where the word occurs frequently in various applications: "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity" (Ecclesiastes 1:2; 12:8). Hebhel is also the name of Adam's second son (Genesis 4:2). 'Awen, meaning also "breath," is likewise translated "vanity" in similar connections, but it inclines more to "iniquity" (so often rendered); it is joined with mischief and iniquity (Isaiah 41:29; 58:9; Zechariah 10:2); another frequent word is shaw', having also the idea of "falsity, .... wickedness" (Exodus 20:7; Deuteronomy 5:11; Psalms 31:6, etc.).

"Vanity" does not often occur in the New Testament; but see VAIN; VAINGLORY. In Acts 14:15 we have mataios, "empty," translated "vanities" (of idols); mataiotes, "emptiness," "transitoriness" (Romans 8:20, "The creation was subjected to vanity," frailty, transitoriness); "emptiness," "folly" (Ephesians 4:17; 2 Peter 2:18).

Among other changes for "vanity" the Revised Version (British and American) has "iniquity" (Job 15:35; Psalms 10:7); "falsehood" (Psalms 12:2; 41:6); "deceit" (Psalms 144:8,11); "vapor" (Proverbs 21:6); "calamity" (Proverbs 22:8 margin "vanity"); "a breath" (Isaiah 57:13); "wickedly" (Isaiah 58:9). Conversely, for "Wherefore hast thou made all men in vain?" (Psalms 89:47), "For what vanity hast thou created all the children of men!"; for "Behold, they are all vanity; their works are nothing" (Isaiah 41:29), "Behold, all of them, their works are vanity and nought," margin as the King James Version, with "nought" for "nothing."

W. L. Walker

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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'VANITY, VANITIES'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.