Ecclesiastes 1:2
Verse (Click for Chapter)
New International Version
"Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless."

New Living Translation
"Everything is meaningless," says the Teacher, "completely meaningless!"

English Standard Version
Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.

Berean Study Bible
“Futility of futilities,” says the Teacher, “futility of futilities! Everything is futile!”

New American Standard Bible
"Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher, "Vanity of vanities! All is vanity."

King James Bible
Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.

Christian Standard Bible
"Absolute futility," says the Teacher. "Absolute futility. Everything is futile."

Contemporary English Version
Nothing makes sense! Everything is nonsense. I have seen it all--nothing makes sense!

Good News Translation
It is useless, useless, said the Philosopher. Life is useless, all useless.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
Absolute futility," says the Teacher." Absolute futility. Everything is futile."

International Standard Version
"Utterly pointless," says the Teacher. "Absolutely pointless; everything is pointless."

NET Bible
"Futile! Futile!" laments the Teacher, "Absolutely futile! Everything is futile!"

New Heart English Bible
"Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher; "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity."

GOD'S WORD® Translation
"Absolutely pointless!" says the spokesman. "Absolutely pointless! Everything is pointless."

JPS Tanakh 1917
Vanity of vanities, saith Koheleth; Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.

New American Standard 1977
“Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”

Jubilee Bible 2000
Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.

King James 2000 Bible
Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.

American King James Version
Vanity of vanities, said the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.

American Standard Version
Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher; vanity of vanities, all is vanity.

Douay-Rheims Bible
Vanity of vanities, said Ecclesiastes vanity of vanities, and all is vanity.

Darby Bible Translation
Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities! all is vanity.

English Revised Version
Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher; vanity of vanities, all is vanity.

Webster's Bible Translation
Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.

World English Bible
"Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher; "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity."

Young's Literal Translation
Vanity of vanities, said the Preacher, Vanity of vanities: the whole is vanity.
Study Bible
Everything is Futile
1The words of the Teacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem: 2“Futility of futilities,” says the Teacher, “futility of futilities! Everything is futile!” 3What does a man gain from all his labor, at which he toils under the sun?…
Cross References
Romans 8:20
For the creation was subjected to futility, not by its own will, but because of the One who subjected it, in hope

Job 11:12
But a witless man can no more become wise than the colt of a wild donkey can be born a man!

Psalm 39:5
You, indeed, have made my days as handbreadths, and my lifetime as nothing before You. Truly each man at his best exists as but a breath. Selah

Psalm 39:6
Surely every man goes about like a phantom; surely he bustles in vain; he heaps up riches not knowing who will haul them away.

Psalm 62:9
Lowborn men are but a vapor; the exalted but a lie. Weighed on the scale, they are pushed up; together they are but a breath.

Psalm 89:47
Remember how short is my lifespan. For what futility You have created all men!

Psalm 144:4
Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.

Ecclesiastes 12:8
"Futility of futilities," says the Teacher. "Everything is futile!"

Treasury of Scripture

Vanity of vanities, said the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.

Ecclesiastes 2:11,15,17,19,21,23,26 Then I looked on all the works that my hands had worked, and on the …

Ecclesiastes 3:19 For that which befalls the sons of men befalls beasts; even one thing …

Ecclesiastes 4:4,8,16 Again, I considered all travail, and every right work, that for this …

Ecclesiastes 5:10 He that loves silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that …

Ecclesiastes 6:11 Seeing there be many things that increase vanity, what is man the better?

Ecclesiastes 11:8,10 But if a man live many years, and rejoice in them all; yet let him …

Ecclesiastes 12:8 Vanity of vanities, said the preacher; all is vanity.

Psalm 39:5,6 Behold, you have made my days as an handbreadth; and my age is as …

Psalm 62:9,10 Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a …

Psalm 144:4 Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passes away.

Romans 8:20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by …

(2) Vanity of vanities.--This verse strikes the key-note of the whole work. In using this expression we mean to indicate the opinion that the unity of the book is rather that of a musical composition than of a philosophical treatise. A leading theme is given out and followed for a time. Episodes are introduced, not perhaps logically connected with the original subject, but treated in harmony with it, and leading back to the original theme which is never lost sight of, and with which the composition comes to a close (Ecclesiastes 12:8).

The word translated "vanity" (which occurs thirty-seven times in this book, and only thirty-three times in all the rest of the Old Testament) in its primary meaning denotes breath or vapour, and is so translated here in some of the Greek versions (comp. James 4:4); so in Isaiah 57:13. It is the same word as the proper name Abel, on which see Note on Genesis 4:2. It is frequently applied in Scripture to the follies of heathenism (Jeremiah 14:22, &c), and also to the whole estate of men (Psalm 39:5-6; Psalm 62:9; Psalm 144:4). The translation "vanity" is that of the LXX. We may reasonably believe that St. Paul (Romans 8:20) had this key-note of Ecclesiastes in his mind.

"Vanity of vanities" is a common Hebrew superlative, as in the phrases "Heaven of heavens," "Song of songs," "Holy of holies," "Lamentation of lamentations" (Micah 2:4, margin).

Saith the Preacher.--Heb., said. The Hebrew constantly employs the preterite when English usage requires the present or perfect. In the case of a message the point of time contemplated in Hebrew is that of the giving, not the delivery, of the message. So "Thus said Benhadad," "Thus said the Lord" (1Kings 20:2; 1Kings 20:5; 1Kings 20:13 and passim) are rightly translated by the present in our version. In the present case this formula is one which might conceivably be employed if the words of Koheleth were written down by himself; yet it certainly rather suggests that we have here these words as written down by another.

Verses 2-11. - PROLOGUE. The vanity of all human and mundane things, and the oppressive monotony of their continued recurrence. Verse 2. - Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity (comp. Ecclesiastes 12:8). "Vanity" is hebel, which means "breath," and is used metaphorically of anything transitory, frail, unsatisfying. We have it in the proper name Abel, an appropriate designation of the youth whose life was cut short by a brother's murderous hand. "Vanity of vanities," like "heaven of heavens" (1 Kings 8:27), "song of songs" (Song of Solomon 1:1), etc., is equivalent to a superlative, "most utterly vain." It is here an exclamation, and is to be regarded as the key-note of the whole subsequent treatise, which is merely the development of this text. Septuagint, ματαιότης ματαιοτήτων; other Greek translators, ἀτμὶς ἀτμίδων, "vapor of vapors." For "saith" the Vulgate gives dixit; the Septuagint, εϊπεν; but as there is no reference to any previous utterance of the Preacher, the present is more suitable here. In affirming that "all is vanity," the writer is referring to human and mundane things, and directs not his view beyond such phenomena. Such reflection is common in sacred and profane writings alike; such experience is universal (comp. Genesis 47:9; Psalm 39:5-7; Psalm 90:3-10; James 3:14). "Pulvis et umbra sumus," says Horace ('Carm.,' 4:7. 16. "O curas hominum! O quantum est in rebus inane!" (Persius, 'Sat.,' 1:1). If Dean Plumptre is correct in contending that the Book of Wisdom was written to rectify the deductions which might be drawn from Koheleth, we may contrast the caution of the apocryphal writer, who predicates vanity, not of all things, but only of the hope of the ungodly, which he likens to dust, froth, and smoke (see Wisd. 2:1, etc.; 5:14). St. Paul (Romans 8:20) seems to have had Ecclesiastes in mind when he spoke of the creation being subjected to vanity (τῇ ματαιότητι), as a consequence of the fall of man, not to be remedied till the final restitution of all things. "But a man will say, If all things are vain and vanity, wherefore were they made? If they are God's works, how are they vain? But it is not the works of God which he calls vain. God forbid! The heaven is not vain; the earth is not vain: God forbid! Nor the sun, nor the moon, nor the stars, nor our own body. No; all these are very good. But what is vain? Man's works, pomp, and vain-glory. These came not from the hand of God, but are of our own creating. And they are vain because they have no useful end That is called vain which is expected indeed to possess value, yet possesses it not; that which men call empty, as when they speak of 'empty hopes,' and that which is fruitless. And generally that is called vain which is of no use. Let us see, then, whether all human things are not of this sort" (St. Chrysostom, 'Hem. 12. in Ephes.'). Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher,.... This is the preacher's text; the theme and subject he after enlarges upon, and proves by an induction of particulars; it is the sum of the whole book;

vanity of vanities, all is vanity; most extremely vain, exceedingly so, the height of vanity: this is repeated, both for the confirmation of it, men being hard of belief of it; and to show how much the preacher was affected with it himself, and to affect others with the same. The Targum reads, "vanity of vanities in this world"; which is right as to the sense of the passage; for though the world, and all things in it, were made by God, and are very good; yet, in comparison of him, are less than nothing, and vanity; and especially as become subject to it through sin, a curse being brought upon the earth by it; and all the creatures made for the use of men liable to be abused, and are abused, through luxury, intemperance, and cruelty; and the whole world usurped by Satan, as the god of it. Nor is there anything in it, and put it all together, that can give satisfaction and contentment; and all is fickle, fluid, transitory, and vanishing, and in a short time will come to an end: the riches of the world afford no real happiness, having no substance in them, and being of no long continuance; nor can a man procure happiness for himself or others, or avert wrath to come, and secure from it; and especially these are vanity, when compared with the true riches, the riches of grace and glory, which are solid, substantial, satisfying, and are for ever: the honours of this world are empty things, last a very short time; and are nothing in comparison of the honour that comes from God, and all the saints have, in the enjoyment of grace here, and glory hereafter: the sinful pleasures of life are imaginary things, short lived ones; and not to be mentioned with spiritual pleasures, enjoyed in the house of God, under the word and ordinances; and especially with those pleasures, for evermore, at the right hand of God. Natural wisdom and knowledge, the best thing in the world; yet much of it is only in opinion; a great deal of it false; and none saving, and of any worth, in comparison of the knowledge of Christ, and of God in Christ; all the forms of religion and external righteousness, where there is not the true fear and grace of God, are all vain and empty things. Man, the principal creature in the world, is "vain man"; that is his proper character in nature and religion, destitute of grace: every than is vain, nay, vanity itself; high and low, rich and poor, learned or unlearned; nay, man at his best estate, as worldly and natural, is so; as even Adam was in his state of innocence, being fickle and mutable, and hence he fell, Psalm 39:5; and especially his fallen posterity, whose bodies are tenements of clay; their beauty vain and deceitful; their circumstances changeable; their minds empty of all that is good; their thoughts and imaginations vain; their words, and works, and actions, and their whole life and conversation; they are not at all to be trusted in for help, by themselves or others. The Targum is,

"when Solomon, king of Israel, saw, by the spirit of prophecy, that the kingdom of Rehoboam his son would be divided with Jeroboam, the son of Nebat; and that Jerusalem, and the house of the sanctuary, would be destroyed, and the people of the children of Israel would be carried captive; he said, by his word, Vanity of vanities in this world, vanity of vanities; all that I and my father David have laboured for, all is vanity!'' 2. The theme proposed of the first part of his discourse.

Vanity of vanities—Hebraism for the most utter vanity. So "holy of holies" (Ex 26:33); "servant of servants" (Ge 9:25). The repetition increases the force.

all—Hebrew, "the all"; all without exception, namely, earthly things.

vanity—not in themselves, for God maketh nothing in vain (1Ti 4:4, 5), but vain when put in the place of God and made the end, instead of the means (Ps 39:5, 6; 62:9; Mt 6:33); vain, also, because of the "vanity" to which they are "subjected" by the fall (Ro 8:20).1:1-3 Much is to be learned by comparing one part of Scripture with another. We here behold Solomon returning from the broken and empty cisterns of the world, to the Fountain of living water; recording his own folly and shame, the bitterness of his disappointment, and the lessons he had learned. Those that have taken warning to turn and live, should warn others not to go on and die. He does not merely say all things are vain, but that they are vanity. VANITY OF VANITIES, ALL IS VANITY. This is the text of the preacher's sermon, of which in this book he never loses sight. If this world, in its present state, were all, it would not be worth living for; and the wealth and pleasure of this world, if we had ever so much, are not enough to make us happy. What profit has a man of all his labour? All he gets by it will not supply the wants of the soul, nor satisfy its desires; will not atone for the sins of the soul, nor hinder the loss of it: what profit will the wealth of the world be to the soul in death, in judgment, or in the everlasting state?
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