The concrete aspect of this is expressed in the idea of “breath” or “wind.” In
The practical aspect, however, is expressed much more frequently as that which is “useless,” “a failure,” or “to no avail.” The phrase “in vain” usually has this force (
The moral aspect begins with the idea of “being without value” (
The ancient mind seems to have reacted strongly to this. The “vain thing” was that which seemed to promise something and failed to fulfill the promise. There was, therefore, the element of “deception,” “falsehood,” and even “wickedness” in this emptiness and failure. The “vain thoughts” of KJV (
For Bibliography and further discussion see Vanity.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
van: The adjective of "vanity," and representing the same Hebrew and Greek words as does the latter, with a few additions (chiefly kenos, "empty," and its compounds in the