2 During the month of Nisan[a] in the twentieth year that Artaxerxes was king, I served him his wine, as I had done before. But this was the first time I had ever looked depressed. 2 So the king said, “Why do you look so sad? You’re not sick. Something must be bothering you.”
Even though I was frightened, 3 I answered, “Your Majesty, I hope you live forever! I feel sad because the city where my ancestors are buried is in ruins, and its gates have been burned down.”
4 The king asked, “What do you want me to do?”
I prayed to the God who rules from heaven. 5 Then I told the king, “Sir, if it’s all right with you, please send me back to Judah, so that I can rebuild the city where my ancestors are buried.”
6 The queen was sitting beside the king when he asked me, “How long will it take, and when will you be back?” The king agreed to let me go, and I told him when I would return.
7 Then I asked, “Your Majesty, would you be willing to give me letters to the governors of the provinces west of the Euphrates River, so that I can travel safely to Judah? 8 I will need timber to rebuild the gates of the fortress near the temple and more timber to construct the city wall and to build a place for me to live. And so, I would appreciate a letter to Asaph, who is in charge of the royal forest.” God was good to me, and the king did everything I asked.
9 The king sent some army officers and cavalry troops along with me, and as I traveled through the Western Provinces, I gave the letters to the governors. 10 But when Sanballat from Horon[b] and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about what had happened, they became very angry, because they didn’t want anyone to help the people of Israel.
Nehemiah Inspects the Wall of Jerusalem
11 Three days after arriving in Jerusalem, 12 I got up during the night and left my house. I took some men with me, without telling anyone what I thought God wanted me to do for the city. The only animal I took was the donkey I rode on. 13 I went through Valley Gate on the west, then south past Dragon Spring, before coming to Garbage Gate. As I rode along, I took a good look at the crumbled walls of the city and the gates that had been torn down and burned. 14 On the east side of the city, I headed north to Fountain Gate and King’s Pool, but then the trail became too narrow for my donkey. 15 So I went down to Kidron Valley and looked at the wall from there. Then before daylight I returned to the city through Valley Gate.
16 None of the city officials knew what I had in mind. And I had not even told any of the Jews—not the priests, the leaders, the officials, or any other Jews who would be helping in the work. 17 But when I got back, I said to them, “Jerusalem is truly in a mess! The gates have been torn down and burned, and everything is in ruins. We must rebuild the city wall so that we can again take pride in our city.”
18 Then I told them how kind God had been and what the king had said.
Immediately, they replied, “Let’s start building now!” So they got everything ready.
19 When Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem the Arab heard about our plans, they started insulting us and saying, “Just look at you! Do you plan to rebuild the walls of the city and rebel against the king?”
20 I answered, “We are servants of the God who rules from heaven, and he will make our work succeed. So we will start rebuilding Jerusalem, but you have no right to any of its property, because you have had no part in its history.”
2.1Nisan: Or Abib, the first month of the Hebrew calendar, from about mid-March to mid-April.
2.10Horon: Possibly meaning that Sanballat was the official in charge of Beth-Horon, an important town on the road from Jerusalem to Lydda and the Mediterranean Sea.
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