Nehemiah goes to Jerusalem
1 It was the month of Nisan. King Artaxerxes had ruled Babylon for 20 years. I brought the king's wine. I gave the wine to the king. I was sad. I had not been sad in front of the king before. 2 The king asked me, ‘Why are you sad? You are not ill. This must mean that you are not happy.’ I was afraid.
2:2Servants had to be happy in front of the king. Nehemiah was afraid because the king might be angry with him.
3 I replied, ‘Let the king live always! I am sad because they have destroyed my ancestors' city. Our enemies have burned the city's gates.’ 4 The king asked me, ‘What do you want?’ So I prayed to God. 5 Then I replied to the king, ‘If it gives the king pleasure, might he send me there? Then if he is happy with his servant Nehemiah, I can build the city again. They buried my ancestors there.’ 6 The king sat with the queen next to him. The king asked me, ‘How long will you be away? When will you return?’ The king was happy to let me go to Judah. I told him when I would leave. 7 I said to the king, ‘If the king likes the idea, give me some letters. The letters are for your officers who rule the region on the west side of Euphrates river. The officers will keep me safe on the journey to Judah. 8 Let me have a letter to give to Asaph. He has authority for the king's forest. He will give me wood from the trees to make beams. The beams are for the gates of the city, near the temple. They are also for the city wall and for the house that I will live in.’ God was with me. So the king gave me what I asked for.
9 I went to the west side of the Euphrates river. The king sent soldiers with me. Some rode horses and some walked. I gave the letter to the king's officers. 10 Sanballat and Tobiah were not happy because I came to help the Israelites. Sanballat was from Horon and Tobiah was an Ammonite officer.
2:10Sanballat and Tobiah had authority. They thought that they might not have authority over Jerusalem any longer. They knew that the Jews might build the city wall again. Then Jerusalem would be a powerful city.
Nehemiah looks at Jerusalem's wall
11 I went to Jerusalem. I was in Jerusalem for three days. After three days 12 I went out at night. A few men came with me. I did not tell anyone the idea that God had put in my mind. I rode on a horse. We did not take any other horses. 13 I went through the Valley Gate to the Jackal Well and the Dung Gate. I looked at Jerusalem's wall. It was broken. Enemies had broken the wall and they had burnt the gates.
2:13A jackal is an animal.
14 I went to the Fountain Gate and the King's Pool. The horse that I was riding could not get through. 15 So I went to the valley to look at the wall. It was dark. I returned past the Valley Gate. 16 The officers did not know what I had done. I had not said anything to the officers or priests. I did not tell the Jews that I wanted them to build the city wall again.
17 I spoke to the priests, Jews and officers. I said, ‘We have much trouble. Enemies have broken down the city wall. Fire has burned the gates. We must build the city again. Then Jerusalem will no longer be ashamed.’ 18 I told the people how God had helped me. God had put the idea in the king's mind to let me come to Jerusalem. I told them what the king had said to me. The people said, ‘We will start to build!’ And they began the good work. 19 But Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem tried to make us seem like fools. They said, ‘What are you doing? Are you going against the king?’
2:19Enemies of the Jews had sent a letter to King Artaxerxes. The king had stopped the Jews when they were building the city. That was some time before Nehemiah went to Judah. (See Ezra 4:8-24.)
20 I replied, ‘God will make us strong to finish this work. We are God's servants. We will start to build. But you have no place in Jerusalem.’