The King Sends Nehemiah to Jerusalem
1In the month of Nisan in the 20th year#2:1 20th year That is, 443 B.C. of King Artaxerxes, some wine was brought to the king. I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had never before been sad when I was with him, but now I was sad. 2So the king asked me, “Are you sick? Why do you look sad? I think your heart is full of sadness.”
Then I was very afraid. 3But even though I was afraid, I said to the king, “May the king live forever! I am sad because the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and the gates of that city have been destroyed by fire.”
4Then the king said to me, “What do you want me to do?”
Before I answered, I prayed to the God of heaven. 5Then I answered the king, “If it would please the king, and if I have been good to you, please send me to Jerusalem, the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried. I want to go there and rebuild that city.”
6The king and the queen who was sitting next to him asked me, “How long will your trip take? When will you get back here?”
The king was happy to send me, so I gave him a certain time. 7I also said to the king, “If it would please the king to do something else for me, let me ask. Please give me some letters to show the governors of the area west of the Euphrates River. I need these letters so that the governors will give me permission to pass safely through their lands on my way to Judah. 8I also need lumber for the heavy wooden beams for the gates, the walls, the walls around the Temple, and my house. So I need a letter from you to Asaph, who is in charge of your forests.”
The king gave me the letters and everything I asked for. The king did that because my God was kind to me.
9So I went to the governors of the area west of the Euphrates River and gave them the letters from the king. The king had also sent army officers and soldiers on horses with me. 10Sanballat from Horon and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about what I was doing. They were very upset and angry that someone had come to help the Israelites.
Nehemiah Inspects the Walls of Jerusalem
11-12I went to Jerusalem and stayed there three days. Then at night I started out with a few men. I had not said anything to anyone about what my God had put on my heart to do for Jerusalem. There were no horses with me except the horse I was riding. 13While it was dark I went out through the Valley Gate. I rode toward the Dragon Well and the Gate of the Ash Piles. I was inspecting the walls of Jerusalem that had been broken down and the gates in the wall that had been burned with fire. 14Then I rode on toward the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool. As I got close, I could see there was not enough room for my horse to get through. 15So I went up the valley in the dark, inspecting the wall. Finally, I turned back and went back in through the Valley Gate. 16The officials and important Israelites didn’t know where I had gone. They didn’t know what I was doing. I had not yet said anything to the Jews, the priests, the king’s family, the officials, or any of the other people who would be doing the work.
17Then I said to them, “You can see the trouble we have here: Jerusalem is a pile of ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let’s rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. Then we will not be ashamed anymore.”
18I also told them that my God had been kind to me. I told them what the king had said to me. Then they answered, “Let’s start to work, now!” So we began this good work. 19But Sanballat from Horon, Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard that we were building again. They made fun of us in a very ugly way. They said, “What are you doing? Are you turning against the king?”
20But this is what I said to them: “The God of heaven will help us succeed. We are God’s servants and we will rebuild this city. You cannot help us in this work because none of your family lived here in Jerusalem. You don’t own any of this land, and you have no right to be in this place.”