Nehemiah Sent to Jerusalem
1 Now in the month of Nisan, a in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was set before him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had never been sad in his presence, 2 so the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, though you are not ill? This could only be sadness of the heart.”
I was overwhelmed with fear 3 and replied to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should I not be sad when the city where my fathers are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”
4 “What is your request?” replied the king.
So I prayed to the God of heaven 5 and answered the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city where my fathers are buried, so that I may rebuild it.”
6 Then the king, with the queen seated beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me, and I set a time.
7 I also said to him, “If it pleases the king, may letters be given to me for the governors west of the Euphrates, b so that they will grant me safe passage until I reach Judah. 8 And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the king’s forest, so that he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel to the temple, for the city wall, and for the house I will occupy.”
And because the gracious hand of my God was upon me, the king granted my requests.
9 Then I went to the governors west of the Euphrates and gave them the king’s letters. The king had also sent army officers and cavalry with me.
10 But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about this, they were deeply disturbed that someone had come to seek the well-being of the Israelites.
Nehemiah Inspects the Walls
11 After I had arrived in Jerusalem and had been there three days, 12 I set out at night with a few men. I did not tell anyone what my God had laid on my heart to do for Jerusalem. The only animal with me was the one on which I was riding.
13 So I went out at night through the Valley Gate toward the Well of the Serpent c and the Dung Gate, and I inspected the walls of Jerusalem that had been broken down and the gates that had been destroyed by fire.
14 Then I went on to the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool, but there was no room for the animal under me to get through; 15 so I went up the valley by night and inspected the wall. Then I headed back and reentered through the Valley Gate.
16 The officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, for I had not yet told the Jews or priests or nobles or officials or any other workers. 17 Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned down. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, so that we will no longer be a disgrace.”
18 I also told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me, and what the king had said to me.
“Let us start rebuilding,” they replied, and they set their hands to this good work.
19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard about this, they mocked us and ridiculed us, saying, “What is this you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?”
20 So I answered them and said, “The God of heaven is the One who will grant us success. We, His servants, will start rebuilding, but you have no portion, right, or claim in Jerusalem.”
1 a Nisan is the first month of the Hebrew lunar calendar, usually occurring within the months of March and April.
7 b Hebrew beyond the River ; also in verse 9
13 c Or Dragon or Jackal