2 1-2 One day in April, four months later, as I was serving the king his wine he asked me, “Why so sad? You aren’t sick, are you? You look like a man with deep troubles.” (For until then I had always been cheerful when I was with him.) I was badly frightened, 3 but I replied, “Sir,[a] why shouldn’t I be sad? For the city where my ancestors are buried is in ruins, and the gates have been burned down.”
4 “Well, what should be done?” the king asked.
With a quick prayer to the God of heaven, I replied, “If it please Your Majesty and if you look upon me with your royal favor, send me to Judah to rebuild the city of my fathers!”
5-6 The king replied, with the queen sitting beside him, “How long will you be gone? When will you return?”
So it was agreed! And I set a time for my departure!
7 Then I added this to my request: “If it please the king, give me letters to the governors west of the Euphrates River instructing them to let me travel through their countries on my way to Judah; 8 also a letter to Asaph, the manager of the king’s forest, instructing him to give me timber for the beams and for the gates of the fortress near the Temple, and for the city walls, and for a house for myself.”
And the king granted these requests, for God was being gracious to me.
9 When I arrived in the provinces west of the Euphrates River, I delivered the king’s letters to the governors there. (The king, I should add, had sent along army officers and troops to protect me!) 10 But when Sanballat (the Horonite) and Tobiah (an Ammonite who was a government official) heard of my arrival, they were very angry that anyone was interested in helping Israel.
11-12 Three days after my arrival at Jerusalem I stole out during the night, taking only a few men with me; for I hadn’t told a soul about the plans for Jerusalem that God had put into my heart. I was mounted on my donkey and the others were on foot, 13 and we went out through the Valley Gate toward the Jackal’s Well and over to the Dung Gate to see the broken walls and burned gates. 14-15 Then we went to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool, but my donkey couldn’t get through the rubble. So we circled the city, and I followed the brook, inspecting the wall, and entered again at the Valley Gate.
16 The city officials did not know I had been out there or why, for as yet I had said nothing to anyone about my plans—not to the political or religious leaders, or even to those who would be doing the work.
17 But now I told them, “You know full well the tragedy of our city; it lies in ruins and its gates are burned. Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and rid ourselves of this disgrace!”
18 Then I told them about the desire God had put into my heart, and of my conversation with the king, and the plan to which he had agreed.
They replied at once, “Good! Let’s rebuild the wall!” And so the work began.
19 But when Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem the Arab heard of our plan, they scoffed and said, “What are you doing, rebelling against the king like this?”
20 But I replied, “The God of heaven will help us, and we, his servants, will rebuild this wall; but you may have no part in this affair.”
- Nehemiah 2:3 Sir, literally, “Let the king live forever.”
New International Version
Artaxerxes Sends Nehemiah to Jerusalem
2 In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes,(A) when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before, 2 so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.”
I was very much afraid, 3 but I said to the king, “May the king live forever!(B) Why should my face not look sad when the city(C) where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?(D)”
4 The king said to me, “What is it you want?”
Then I prayed to the God of heaven, 5 and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.”
6 Then the king(E), with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?” It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time.
7 I also said to him, “If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates,(F) so that they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah? 8 And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the royal park, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel(G) by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?” And because the gracious hand of my God was on me,(H) the king granted my requests.(I) 9 So I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates and gave them the king’s letters. The king had also sent army officers and cavalry(J) with me.
Nehemiah Inspects Jerusalem’s Walls
11 I went to Jerusalem, and after staying there three days(N) 12 I set out during the night with a few others. I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem. There were no mounts with me except the one I was riding on.
13 By night I went out through the Valley Gate(O) toward the Jackal[a] Well and the Dung Gate,(P) examining the walls(Q) of Jerusalem, which had been broken down, and its gates, which had been destroyed by fire. 14 Then I moved on toward the Fountain Gate(R) and the King’s Pool,(S) but there was not enough room for my mount to get through; 15 so I went up the valley by night, examining the wall. Finally, I turned back and reentered through the Valley Gate. 16 The officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, because as yet I had said nothing to the Jews or the priests or nobles or officials or any others who would be doing the work.
17 Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire.(T) Come, let us rebuild the wall(U) of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.(V)” 18 I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me(W) and what the king had said to me.
They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work.
19 But when Sanballat(X) the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem(Y) the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us.(Z) “What is this you are doing?” they asked. “Are you rebelling against the king?”
20 I answered them by saying, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding,(AA) but as for you, you have no share(AB) in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.”
- Nehemiah 2:13 Or Serpent or Fig