1 Samuel 12:21
And turn ye not aside: for then should ye go after vain things, which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain.
a. NLT: Don’t go back to worshiping worthless idols that cannot help or rescue you—they are totally useless!
b. NIV: Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless.
c. YLT: and ye do not turn aside after the vain things which do not profit nor deliver, for they are vain,
d. Amplified Bible Classic: And turn not aside after vain and worthless things which cannot profit or deliver you, for they are empty and futile.
e. Septuagint: And turn not aside after the [gods] that are nothing, who will do nothing, and will not deliver [you], because they are nothing.
f. Stone Edition Torah/Prophets/Writings: Do not turn away for [that would be to] pursue futilities that cannot avail and cannot rescue, for they are futile.
1. “And turn ye not aside…”
a. And turn ye not aside [5493 * cuwr] [Strong: to turn off (literal or figurative):--be(-head), bring, call back, decline, depart, eschew, get (you), go (aside), X grievous, lay away (by), leave undone, be past, pluck away, put (away, down), rebel, remove (to and fro), revolt, X be sour, take (away, off), turn (aside, away, in), withdraw, be without.]
1). The Hebrew definitions are clearly seen in the use of the word in many verses.
a). Deuteronomy 11:16, 17 Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them;
11:17 And then the LORD'S wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and lest ye perish quickly from off the good land which the LORD giveth you.
b). Psalm 40:4 Blessed is that man that maketh the LORD his trust, and respecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.
c). Psalm 101:3 I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.
2. “…for then should ye go after vain things…”
a. for then should ye go after [310 * 'achar] [Strong: from 309; properly, the hind part; generally used as an adverb or conjunction, after (in various senses):--after (that, -ward), again, at, away from, back (from, -side), behind, beside, by, follow (after, -ing), forasmuch, from, hereafter, hinder end, + out (over) live, + persecute, posterity, pursuing, remnant, seeing, since, thence(-forth), when, with.]
b. vain things [8414 * tohuw][Strong: to lie waste; a desolation (of surface), i.e. desert; figuratively, a worthless thing; adverbially, in vain:--confusion, empty place, without form, nothing, (thing of) nought, vain, vanity, waste, wilderness.
1). 2 Kings 17:15 And they rejected his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their fathers, and his testimonies which he testified against them; and they followed vanity, and became vain, and went after the heathen that were round about them, concerning whom the LORD had charged them, that they should not do like them.
2). Jeremiah 4:14 O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved. How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee?
3. “…which cannot profit nor deliver…”
a. which cannot profit [3276 * ya’al] [Strong: to ascend; figuratively, to be valuable (objectively: useful, subjectively: benefited):--X at all, set forward, can do good, (be, have) profit, (able).]
1). Old Covenant uses of the word reflect not only material but spiritual things.
a). Jeremiah 2:8 The priests said not, Where is the LORD? and they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit.
b). Isaiah 44:9 They that make a graven image are all of them vanity; and their delectable things shall not profit; and they are their own witnesses; they see not, nor know; that they may be ashamed.
c). Proverbs 10:2 Treasures of wickedness profit nothing: but righteousness delivereth from death.
2). In the New Testament the word is of course a variety of Greek words, but its use also reflects the material and spiritual, depending on the context.
a). Mark 8:36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
b). 1 Corinthians 10:33 Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.
c). Hebrews 4:2 For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.
b. nor deliver [5337 * natsal] [Strong: to snatch away, whether in a good or a bad sense:- X at all, defend, deliver (self), escape, X without fail, part, pluck, preserve, recover, rescue, rid, save, spoil, strip, X surely, take (out).]
1). The Scriptural definition of what “vain” means is something that does not lift me, does me no good, is not valuable or will not deliver, preserve, or defend me.
2). The terms for “profit” and “deliver” seem to be interchanged in a few verses.
a). Proverbs 10:2 Treasures of wickedness profit nothing: but righteousness delivereth from death.
3). In the end, vain things will only lead us away from God and we should not be distracted in that way.