Contemporary English Version
1 I am Nehemiah son of Hacaliah, and in this book I tell what I have done.
During the month of Chislev[a] in the twentieth year that Artaxerxes[b] ruled Persia, I was in his fortress city of Susa,[c] 2 when my brother Hanani came with some men from Judah. So I asked them about the Jews who had escaped[d] from being captives in Babylonia. I also asked them about the city of Jerusalem.
3 They told me, “Those captives who have come back are having all kinds of troubles. They are terribly disgraced, Jerusalem’s walls are broken down, and its gates have been burned.”
4 When I heard this, I sat down and cried. Then for several days, I mourned; I went without eating to show my sorrow, and I prayed:
5 Lord God of heaven, you are great and fearsome. And you faithfully keep your promises to everyone who loves you and obeys your commands. 6 I am your servant, so please have mercy on me and answer the prayer that I make day and night for these people of Israel who serve you. I, my family, and the rest of your people have sinned 7 by choosing to disobey you and the laws and teachings you gave to your servant Moses.
8 Please remember the promise you made to Moses. You told him that if we were unfaithful, you would scatter us among foreign nations. 9 But you also said that no matter how far away we were, we could turn to you and start obeying your laws. Then you would bring us back to the place where you have chosen to be worshiped.
10 Our Lord, I am praying for your servants—those you rescued by your great strength and mighty power. 11 Please answer my prayer and the prayer of your other servants who gladly honor your name. When I serve the king his wine today, make him pleased with me and have him do what I ask.