The word hevel (הבל), ‘futile,’ appears many times throughout Ecclesiastes as a description of the pursuit of various physical pleasures. Although the word is translated as ‘futile,’ it literally means ‘vapor’. Vapor has the power to distort what a person sees. For example, the hot air rising from desert sands creates the mirage of an oasis. In this verse, the author observes that amassing wealth is “hevel.” More than just futile, the pursuit of wealth is similar to vapor, since it has the power to distort a person’s reality and values. King Solomon warns not to pursue wealth, because one who does so will never be satisfied.
Source: Israel in the News