Adullam was an ancient Canaanite city located in the western foothills of Judah known as Shephelah. In 20th century B.C. during the patriarchal age, there were already people residing in the city (Gen 38:1). Later in 15th century B.C. when Israelites entered the Promised Land, the region of Adullam began to have fortresses built around it (Joshua 12:15, 15:35).
The city of Adullam sat between David’s hometown, Bethlehem, and the Philistine city Gath. To the east of the valley of Elah, Adullam is 20 kilometers from Bethlehem and 15 kilometers from Gath. In his youth, David heroically killed the Philistine giant Goliath in the valley of Elah (1 Sam 17:41-51, 21:9). In the diverse mountainous terrain of the valley of Elah, there were many scattered Limestone caves—with a particular one located near Adullam that became known as “the cave of Adullam” (1 Sam 22:1).
The Bible’s first mention of Adullam traces back to Genesis 38 after Judah proposed to his other brothers not to kill Joseph but sell him as a slave. When it was all said and done, Judah left home to settle near a Adullamite friend named Hirah. There Judah married a Canaanite woman, who bore him three sons (Gen 38:1-5).
Moreover, when the Israelites entered the land of Canaan, Adullam was one of the 31 cities they seized (Joshua 12:7-8, 15). And when the Israelites were allotting the conquered land, Adullam was assigned to the tribe of the people of Judah (Joshua 15:35).
During the reign of King Saul (approximately 1050-1010 B.C.), David once fled to the cave of Adullam for a period of time from Saul’s pursuit. It became his hiding place perhaps because David was relatively acquainted with the region and for the region’s strategic terrain, which makes relocation and seeking covering easier. Later, David’s brothers and father would also go down to the cave of Adullam temporarily. In addition, every one of the 400 men “who was in distress… who was in debt…who was discontented gathered to him” (1 Sam 22:1-5) in Adullam. Some of these 400 men also joined David in battle at the cave of Adullam (2 Sam 23:13).
Hidden in the dark cave with the ever-present threat from Saul and the worsening cold and hunger, David still displayed faith in God and sang praises to Him in his most desperate moment in life. Psalm 57 was likely birthed out of this situation when David found himself hiding in the cave of Adullam.
During the Divided Kingdom period of Israel, Rehoboam king of Judah (around 931-913 B.C.) fortified many cities for defense, including the city of Adullam (2 Chron 11:7).
Later, during Nehemiah’s appointment as the governor of the Judah province (around 444-432 B.C.), there were remnants of Judeans returning from Babylon settling down in Adullam (Neh 11:30).
“I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to you among the nations.
For your steadfast love is as high as the heavens;
your faithfulness extends to the clouds.” (Psalm 57:9-10)