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Despite the widely extolled virtues of marital fidelity, adultery continues to wreak havoc in many families.

What is adultery?


Some cultures do not view extramarital sex, especially on the part of husbands, as wrong. And some do not consider marriage to be a permanent union.


In the Bible, adultery generally refers to voluntary sexual relations by a married person—either a man or a woman—with someone other than his or her mate. (Job 24:15; Proverbs 30:20) Adultery is a detestable thing in God’s eyes. In ancient Israel the penalty for it was death. (Leviticus 18:20, 22, 29) Jesus taught that his followers must refrain from adultery.Matthew 5:27, 28; Luke 18:18-20.


Adulterers break the solemn vow that they made to their spouse at the time of their marriage. It is also a “sin against God.” (Genesis 39:7-9) Adultery can cruelly separate children from parents. What is more, the Bible warns that “God will judge . . . adulterers.”Hebrews 13:4.

“Let marriage be honorable among all, and let the marriage bed be without defilement.”Hebrews 13:4.

Does adultery terminate the marital union?


The Bible allows for a married person to terminate his or her marital union on the grounds of a mate’s sexual immorality. (Matthew 19:9) This means that after an act of infidelity, the innocent mate has the right to decide whether to remain with the unfaithful mate or to pursue a divorce. This is a personal decision.Galatians 6:5.

On the other hand, in God’s eyes marriage is a sacred lifelong bond. (1 Corinthians 7:39) God hates it when a person seeks a divorce that is based on trivial reasons, such as simply not being satisfied with a mate. Therefore, a decision regarding divorce is not to be taken lightly.Malachi 2:16; Matthew 19:3-6.

“I say to you that everyone divorcing his wife, except on account of sexual immorality, makes her a subject for adultery.”Matthew 5:32.

Is adultery an unforgivable sin?


No. The Bible says that God shows mercy to those who repent and turn around from their sins—including adultery. (Acts 3:19; Galatians 5:19-21) In fact, the Bible talks about men and women who stopped committing adultery and later became God’s friends.1 Corinthians 6:9-11.

God’s mercy was shown in the case of King David of ancient Israel. David committed adultery with the wife of one of his army officers. (2 Samuel 11:2-4) The Bible clearly states that “what David had done was very displeasing” to God. (2 Samuel 11:27) After receiving reproof, David repented and God forgave him. Nonetheless, David had to suffer the sad consequences of his actions. (2 Samuel 12:13, 14) Wise King Solomon later attested that “anyone committing adultery . . . is lacking good sense.”Proverbs 6:32.


If you have committed adultery, you need to ask both God and your spouse for forgiveness. (Psalm 51:1-5) Learn to hate adultery as God does. (Psalm 97:10) Be determined to avoid pornography, sexual fantasies, flirting, or anything else that could lead you to have sexual interest in someone other than your mate.Matthew 5:27, 28; James 1:14, 15.

If you have been the victim of your mate’s adultery, be assured that God understands your feelings. (Malachi 2:13, 14) Ask for his tender comfort and guidance, and “he will sustain you.” (Psalm 55:22) If you choose to forgive your mate and continue your marriage, both of you will need to work hard to rebuild your marital bond.Ephesians 4:32.

“Jehovah, in turn, forgives your sin,” said the prophet Nathan to repentant David after his adultery.2 Samuel 12:13.