The vanity of vanities is a passage from the Book of Ecclesiastes, one of the most popular religious texts. This short, lyrical piece portrays a young woman looking into a mirror and contemplating the emptiness and vanity of earthly things. In its first chapter, Ecclesiastes asks: “What is the purpose of human labor?” It answers, “The world is full of vanities.” It goes on to warn of the fleeting nature of youth and beauty, and of the inevitable death of all mankind.
The word ‘vanity’ appears in many places in the Bible. It is usually used to refer to idolatry, man’s days, and himself. It is also found in Scriptures that discuss the spiritual meaning of vanity. In the New Testament, vanity often occurs in conjunction with the words VAIN and VAINGLORY. In Acts 14:15, the Greek word for vanity is ratios, which can be translated as ’emptiness’ or “transitoriness.” In Ephesians 4:17, vanities are defined as ‘folly’ or ‘self-centeredness’.
This word ‘awen’ is often translated as ‘vanity’ in the Bible. It is also frequently used in conjunction with the words ‘mischief’ and ‘iniquity’. Ultimately, ‘vanity’ is a general term that encompasses a person’s entire preoccupation with himself. However, the biblical phrase ‘vanity’ means ’emwitness’. In the Bible, it often refers to a person’s self-indulgence.