“Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” This second verse of the book of Ecclesiastes gives us a preview of what the whole book is about. The word, “vanity” in some form is used 38 times in this book. It’s meaning, literally is “vapor” and conjures up the idea of that which is fading away quickly. It should be taken in slightly different ways in the book depending on the context in which it is used.
When the word is used in those contexts which talk about life’s pursuits it should be taken to mean that “the present form of this world is passing away” (see 1 Cor.7:31). In some contexts this word is used to indicate the “preacher’s” frustration in trying to figure out life’s mysteries (see 1:14-15). Sometimes the word refers to the frustration and anger and sorrow that we feel from living in a fallen world. This is why it is important whenever we read this book that we always have the conclusion in our minds (See ch. 12:13-14). What really counts in life is living in such a way that we obey what God commands out of a heart that fears Him and recognizes Him for who He is. Any other life lived, as this book shows, is a life lived in vain!