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Chapter 1

Nehemiah prays

1 These are the words of Nehemiah, son of Hacaliah. It was the month Kislev. This was when King Artaxerxes had ruled for 20 years. I was in the king's house in the city called Susa. 2 Hanani, my brother and some men arrived. They came from Judah. I asked them for news of the Jews who had earlier returned from Babylon. I asked them about Jerusalem city. 3 They told me, ‘The Jews who returned to Judah are in much trouble. And they are ashamed. Their enemies have broken down the city walls and have burnt the gates.’

4 After they told me this, I sat down. And I cried. During many days, I was very sad. I did not eat or drink. I prayed to God.

5 I prayed, ‘Oh LORD, God of heaven, you are great and powerful. You are so great that I cannot come near to you. You always keep your promises to the people that you have chosen. You do this because you love them. But they must love and obey you. 6 Listen to my words. I am your servant. I am praying to you. I pray in the day and in the night. I am praying on behalf of the people of Israel. They are your servants. We have all done wrong things. I and my family have not obeyed you. The people of Israel have not obeyed your laws. 7 We have all gone against you. We have not obeyed the laws that you gave to your servant Moses.

8 Remember what you told Moses. You told him, “If you do not obey my laws and love me, I will make you live in foreign lands. I will cause you to become separate. You will not be together. 9 But my people must return to me and obey my laws. Then I will let them live in the place that I have chosen. Even if they live far away, I will find them. They can live in the place that I have chosen for my name.” That is what you told Moses.’

1:9The people of Israel are the Jews. Exodus 20 tells us the laws that God gave to Moses. ‘My name’ here means the place where people should worship God.

10 ‘Your people are your servants. You saved them from their enemies with your great power. They cost you much. 11 Please listen to my prayer. I am your servant. The people of Israel are your servants. We worship your name. Let the king be happy with me. Let Artaxerxes give me what I ask.’

I was the king's cupbearer.

1:11A cupbearer looked after the king's wine. Wine is a drink made from grapes. Nehemiah would have to taste the wine. He would make sure that it was safe for the king to drink. As cupbearer, Nehemiah would have authority in the king's house. The king would believe what Nehemiah told him.