Having “strengthened himself in the Lord his God,” David next does that which we have not seen him do since his arrival in Philistia—he seeks God’s guidance. It is interesting that he does so in a situation in which divine direction hardly seems necessary. As Matthew Henry writes, “David had no room to doubt but that this war against these Amalekites was just, and he had an inclination strong enough to set upon them when it was for the recovering of that which was dearest to him in this world; and yet he would not go about it without asking counsel of God, thereby owning his dependence upon God and submission to Him.”
Thus, David summons Abiathar the priest and asks him to bring the ephod that he brought with him when he escaped the massacre of the priests of the city of Nob by Saul’s henchman Doeg (22:18–23; 23:6). When Abiathar has done so, David asks God two questions: Whether he ought to pursue the Amalekites and whether he can expect to overtake them. God answers yes to both of those questions, and He graciously adds that David and his men will ‘ “without fail recover all.” ‘ David did not ask God to reveal the outcome of his planned pursuit, but what a joy and a relief it must have been to David’s men to know that God had determined to deliver their loved ones back to them alive.
Still, David and his six hundred-man force have to track down and battle the Amalekites, and that is no simple prospect. For one thing, they are already weary, having marched to Aphek and back as part of David’s effort to maintain the deception of loyalty to the Philistine king of Gath. They set out after the Amalekites, heading south from Ziklag, but before they have gone more than several miles many of the men begin to lag behind. David does not reproach these weary men. Rather, he decides on a strategic course of action that will benefit his whole force. The weariest men will remain at a place called Brook Besor, and any superfluous equipment will be left with them. Thus, David will be able to move faster with the strongest and least-encumbered men, and hopefully soon overtake the Amalekites, who are burdened with captives and plunder. Dauntless, trusting in God’s promise, David presses on with four hundred men.