Sex in history, by Gordan Rattray Taylor

Just the same change occurred among the Jews. In the early days before the return from exile, they conceived the after-life as a dim existence in which people retained the same characteristics and even clothing as in life, and if they had been wounded or disfigured the marks remained. The dead could speak and moves and they retained an interest in their living relatives. (195) At a later date, they came to believe that death was annihilation — a sleep from which there was no awaking.

“For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything.”

The writer of Ecclesiastes recommends a simple hedonism in face of the fact of mortality:

Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God hath already accepted thy works…. Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity; for that is thy portion in life…. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.

This is the fate which attends all classes of persons, without distinction of good or bad. It is only on the return from the Captivity that, for the first time, we begin to get references to a resurrection, to a waking from the long sleep and an entry upon a new sort of existence involving a close proximity to God. (Since Ecclesiastes was compiled in post-exilic times, it is rather remarkable that the editor should have included sentiments derived from a period evidently much earlier. He may have been an ex-patriate.)

Coupled with this, we find an astonishing change in the attitude to sexual matters, and a feeling that all pleasure, but especially sexual pleasure, is wicked. (172) Reuben speaks of

“the power of procreation and sexual intercourse with which, through love of pleasure, sin enters in….”