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In modern English ‘vanity’ means ‘being vain’. That is, thinking a lot about oneself or one’s appearance..
In the Bible the meaning is more like emptiness or meaningless. Perhaps insignificant could be used to translate it in some contexts.
King Solomon was famous for his wisdom, wealth and less so for world-weariness. “What’s the point?” might sum up some of his later writing.
He is the probable (co-)author of three books of the Old Testament. Many of the Proverbs are his work. He wrote the Song of Songs, which is also known as the Song of Solomon. It is thought that he also wrote Ecclesiastes, in which the narrator calls himself the Preacher. It is in this book that the word, “Vanity” occurs many times. “Of the making of many books there is no end.” is also from Ecclesiastes.
Solomon was the son of King David. He began his rule well, building the Temple for the Lord, which his father had planned. King David would have liked to build the temple, but God did not allow him to, because he had shed blood. At first Solomon followed God’s ways. However he later disobeyed God’s instructions both by marrying many foreign women for political gain and by accumulating many horses. These events are written in the books of 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles.
Perhaps it was because of his disobedience that he felt that there was little of value from a human life. Or perhaps he believed that by putting forward various ideas about human existence, he would generate useful discussion.
Whatever his reasons, he could hardly expect people to be discussing his words, life and motivation thousands of years after his death. Had he believed that, he would have been vain in the modern sense of the word!
This year for the A to Z Challenge I have taken my 2013 Challenge as a starting point for most of the posts. I have written a post based around something or usually someone from the Bible. Sometimes it is a fictional story, for example when I have added some back stories (as a writing exercise). Sometimes it is a summary.
I hope my readers will be challenged to consider the original texts in more depth. (If only to discover what liberties I have taken with them!)
My V post from 2013 gives my view of KIng Solomon.