New English Translation
Nehemiah Is Permitted to Go to Jerusalem
2 Then in the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought to me,[a] I took the wine and gave it to the king. Previously[b] I had not been depressed[c] in the king’s presence.[d] 2 So the king said to me, “Why do you appear to be depressed when you aren’t sick? What can this be other than sadness of heart?” This made me very fearful.
3 I replied to the king, “O king, live forever! Why would I not appear dejected when the city with the graves of my ancestors[e] lies desolate and its gates destroyed[f] by fire?” 4 The king responded,[g] “What is it you are seeking?” Then I quickly prayed to the God of heaven 5 and said to the king, “If the king is so inclined[h] and if your servant has found favor in your sight, dispatch me to Judah, to the city with the graves of my ancestors, so that I can rebuild it.” 6 Then the king, with his consort[i] sitting beside him, replied, “How long would your trip take, and when would you return?” Since the king was pleased to send me,[j] I gave him a time. 7 I said to the king, “If the king is so inclined, let him give me letters for the governors of Trans-Euphrates[k] that will enable me to travel safely until I reach Judah, 8 and a letter for Asaph the keeper of the king’s nature preserve,[l] so that he will give me timber for beams for the gates of the fortress adjacent to the temple and for the city wall[m] and for the house to which I go.” So the king granted me these requests,[n] for the good hand of my God was on me. 9 Then I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, and I presented to them the letters from the king. The king had sent with me officers of the army and horsemen. 10 When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official[o] heard all this, they were very displeased that someone had come to seek benefit for the Israelites.
Nehemiah Arrives in Jerusalem
11 So I came to Jerusalem. When I had been there for three days, 12 I got up during the night, along with a few men who were with me. But I did not tell anyone what my God was putting on my heart to do for Jerusalem. There were no animals with me, except for the one[p] I was riding. 13 I proceeded through the Valley Gate by night, in the direction of the Well of the Dragons[q] and the Dung Gate,[r] inspecting[s] the walls of Jerusalem that had been breached and its gates that had been destroyed by fire. 14 I passed on to the Gate of the Well and the King’s Pool, where there was not enough room for my animal to pass with me. 15 I continued up the valley during the night, inspecting the wall. Then I turned back and came to the Valley Gate, and so returned. 16 The officials did not know where I had gone or what I had been doing, for up to this point I had not told any of the Jews or the priests or the nobles or the officials or the rest of the workers. 17 Then I said to them, “You see the problem that we have—Jerusalem is desolate and its gates are burned. Come on! Let’s rebuild the wall of Jerusalem so that this reproach will not continue.” 18 Then I related to them how the good hand of my God was on me and what[t] the king had said to me. Then they replied, “Let’s begin rebuilding right away!”[u] So they readied themselves[v] for this good project. 19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard all this,[w] they derided us and expressed contempt toward us. They said, “What is this you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” 20 I responded to them by saying, “The God of heaven will prosper us. We his servants will start the rebuilding.[x] But you have no just or ancient right in Jerusalem.”[y]
- Nehemiah 2:1 tc The translation reads with the LXX וְיַיִן לְפָנַי (veyayin lefanay, “and wine before me”) rather than יַיִן לְפָנָיו (yayin lefanayv, “wine before him”) of the MT. The initial vav (ו) of the original וְיַיִן probably dropped out due to haplograpy or orthographic confusion with the two yods (י) which follow. The final vav on לְפָנָיו in the MT was probably added due to dittography with the vav on the immediately following word.
- Nehemiah 2:1 tc The translation reads לְפָנִים (lefanim, “formerly”) rather than לְפָנָיו (lefanayv, “to his face”) of the MT. The MT seems to suggest that Nehemiah was not sad before the king, which is contrary to what follows.
- Nehemiah 2:1 tn Or “showed him a sullen face.” See HALOT 1251 s.v. רַע, רָע 9.
- Nehemiah 2:1 tn This expression is either to be inferred from the context, or perhaps one should read לְפָנָיו (lefanayv, “before him”; cf. the MT) in addition to לְפָנִים (lefanim, “formerly”). See preceding note on the word “previously.”
- Nehemiah 2:3 tn Heb “fathers” (also in v. 5).
- Nehemiah 2:3 tn Heb “devoured” or “eaten” (so also in Neh 2:13).
- Nehemiah 2:4 tn Heb “said to me.”
- Nehemiah 2:5 tn Heb “If upon the king it is good.” So also in v. 7.
- Nehemiah 2:6 tn Or “queen,” so most English versions (cf. HALOT 1415 s.v. שֵׁגַל); TEV “empress.”
- Nehemiah 2:6 tn Heb “It was good before the king and he sent me.”
- Nehemiah 2:7 tn Heb “beyond the river,” here and often elsewhere in the Book of Nehemiah.
- Nehemiah 2:8 tn Or “forest.” So HALOT 963 s.v. פַּרְדֵּס 2.
- Nehemiah 2:8 tc One medieval Hebrew ms, the Syriac Peshitta, Vulgate, and the Arabic read here the plural וּלְחוֹמוֹת (ulekhomot, “walls”) against the singular וּלְחוֹמַת (ulekhomat) in the MT. The plural holem vav (וֹ) might have dropped out due to dittography or the plural form might have been written defectively.
- Nehemiah 2:8 tn The Hebrew text does not include the expression “these requests,” but it is implied.
- Nehemiah 2:10 tn Heb “servant” (so KJV, ASV; NAB “slave”; NCV “officer.” This phrase also occurs in v. 19.
- Nehemiah 2:12 tn Heb “the animal.”
- Nehemiah 2:13 tn Or “Well of the Serpents”; or “Well of the Jackals” (cf. ASV, NIV, NLT).
- Nehemiah 2:13 tn Or “Rubbish Gate” (so TEV); NASB “Refuse Gate”; NCV “Trash Gate”; CEV “Garbage Gate.”
- Nehemiah 2:13 tc For the MT reading שֹׂבֵר (sover, “inspecting”) the LXX erroneously has שֹׁבֵר (shover, “breaking”). However, further destruction of Jerusalem’s walls was obviously not a part of Nehemiah’s purpose.
- Nehemiah 2:18 tn Heb “the words of the king which he had spoken to me.”
- Nehemiah 2:18 tn Heb “Arise! Let us rebuild!”
- Nehemiah 2:18 tn Heb “strengthened their hands.”
- Nehemiah 2:19 tn The Hebrew text does not include the words “all this,” but they have been added in the translation for clarity.
- Nehemiah 2:20 tn Heb “will arise and build.” The idiom “arise and…” means to begin the action described by the second verb.
- Nehemiah 2:20 tn Heb “portion or right or remembrance.” The expression is probably a hendiatris: The first two nouns retain their full nominal function, while the third noun functions adjectivally (“right or remembrance” = “ancient right”).