The error seems to go back to the Septuagint Greek translation which is translated hebel by the Greek word mataiotys which means emptiness, futility, purposelessness (32). The original meaning of the Hebrew word hebel was a vapour or mist (as in James 4:14). And the characteristic of mist and fog is that they are temporary. Using this as a key, Ecclesiastes takes on a quite different, and much more positive meaning. Marriage should be enjoyed because life is short (9:9), and young people should remember that their youth and vigor is temporary (11:9,10). Where the New Berkeley translation views life as "passing" and the Living Bible translates hebel as "transitory," they have got it right (35).
Fobert can then view each stage of life in chapter 3 as a coming and a going. "Each phase has its time" and we cannot hold on to it (35-36). Instead of opening with "Vanity of vanities" what the preacher had in mind was that "our life is a temporary period made up of a series of temporary periods" (36). Based on this insight Fobert gives us a creative outline and amplified paraphrase of the whole book (49-100).
Instead of reading the depressing commentaries which scholars have offered
us, his conclusion has all we need to stimulate a Bible Study or sermon
series. Life includes a series of mists, clouds, and fog, which temporarily
obscure our vision, but they need not prevent our enjoyment of all the
good things God has given us for the celebration of life (101-110).