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VANITY

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 (Dt 32:21; 1 Ki 16:13; Ps 31:6; Jer 8:19, etc.); to man's days and to man himself (Job 7:16; Ps 39:5,11, etc.); to man's thoughts (Ps 94:11); to wealth and treasures (Prov 13:11; 21:6); to everything, in Ecclesiastes, where the word occurs frequently in various applications: "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity" (Eccl 1:2; 12:8). Hebhel is also the name of Adam's second son (Gen 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 (Isa 41:29; 58:9; Zec 10:2); another frequent word is shaw', having also the idea of "falsity, .... wickedness" (Ex 20:7; Dt 5:11; Ps 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" (Rom 8:20, "The creation was subjected to vanity," frailty, transitoriness); "emptiness," "folly" (Eph 4:17; 2 Pet 2:18).
Among other changes for "vanity" the Revised Version (British and American) has "iniquity" (Job 15:35; Ps 10:7); "falsehood" (Ps 12:2; 41:6); "deceit" (Ps 144:8,11); "vapor" (Prov 21:6); "calamity" (Prov 22:8 margin "vanity"); "a breath" (Isa 57:13); "wickedly" (Isa 58:9). Conversely, for "Wherefore hast thou made all men in vain?" (Ps 89:47), "For what vanity hast thou created all the children of men!"; for "Behold, they are all vanity; their works are nothing" (Isa 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
Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Definition for 'vanity'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". bible-history.com - ISBE; 1915.

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