Vanity (Eccl 12:8-12:8)

“Vanity of vanities,

Says Qoheleth

All is vanity.”

This book ends where it began. All is vanity. Qoheleth repeats the opening lines of this book. We have come full cycle. The life and death of humans is useless, vanity. Everything is useless. This is a kind of cynicism and depression. However, there still was the hope of the human spirit or breath returning to God. Other than that, all the rest was must plain vapor, vanity of vanities.

Vanity of vanities (Eccl 1:2-1:3)

“‘Vanity of vanities!’

Says Qoheleth.

‘Vanity of vanities!

All is vanity!

What do people gain

From all the toil

At which they toil

Under the sun?’”

This book starts with a poem to vanity. This is the superlative Hebrew usage of hebel. What is the worst vanity? This hebel is vapor or something unsubstantial, futile or vain. This term “vanity” occurs over 38 times here in this biblical book that shows the futility of humans. Is everything vain and futile? What is the reward for hard work? If all you do is work hard under the sun, what is your reward. This is somewhat reminiscent of Job and his laments.