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The word "vanity" or (in Latin) "vanitas" is used 38 times in the Book of Ecclesiastes.
“Vanity of vanities, all is vanity,” the book opens.
The author, who identifies himself by the name Qoheleth, uses this word to indicate the impermanence of life and the inevitability of death.
The word translated into Latin as vanitas is, in Hebrew, spelled הבל, and it is pronounced hevel.
This word is also the name of Cain's brother, which is anglicized as Abel. It is this name Abel which Qoheleth repeats throughout Ecclesiastes.
Therefore, when Qoheleth says in the eleventh verse of chapter two:
“I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do; and, behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind”
The phrase “all is vanity” could equally be read as “Everything is Abel”. Or perhaps, with some interpretive grace, “All share the fate of Abel.”
Qoheleth, in an allusion to the fourth Chapter of Genesis, used the name of Abel, the first little brother of the human race, as a theme throughout this book to symbolize death’s ubiquity and inescapability.
“Dust returneth to the earth as it was.”