Nehemiah goes to Jerusalem
1 It was the month of Nisan, when King Artaxerxes had ruled Babylon for 20 years. I had the king's wine ready for him to drink. I took it to give to him. He saw that 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 very upset.’ I was very frightened.
2:2Nehemiah was afraid because the king might be angry with him. The king wanted his servants to look happy when they served him.
3 I replied to the king, ‘May the king live for ever! I am sad because enemies have destroyed the city where my ancestors are buried. They burned the city's gates.’
4 The king asked me, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ So I prayed to our God who rules from heaven. 5 Then I said to the king, ‘Please sir, if you think it is a good idea and you are pleased with me, let me go to Judah. If you agree to send me there, I can build again the city where my ancestors are buried.’
2:4Nehemiah prayed quietly that God would show him what he should say to the king.
6 The king was sitting with the queen next to him. The king asked me, ‘How long will you be away? When will you return?’ I told the king how long I would be away. Because the king was happy to send me, I told him when I would leave. 7 I said to the king, ‘If the king agrees, please give me some letters to say that I have your authority. I will show the letters to your officers who rule the region on the west side of the Euphrates river. Then I will be able to travel safely on the journey to Judah. 8 Also give me a letter for Asaph, who takes care of the king's forest there. Tell him to give me wood from the trees. I need to make beams to mend the gates of the strong place near the temple. I also need to mend the city's wall. And I need to build a house for myself to live in.’
The king agreed to do what I asked him, because my God was with me.
9 The king sent officers of his army to keep me safe on the journey. He also sent soldiers who rode on horses. I went to the king's officers on the west side of the Euphrates river. I gave them the letters which the king had written. 10 But two important men were not happy when they heard that I had come to help the Israelite people. They were Sanballat, who came from Horon, and Tobiah, an Ammonite officer.
2:10Sanballat and Tobiah thought that they might lose their authority over Jerusalem's people. They did not want the Jews to make the city strong again.
Nehemiah looks at Jerusalem's walls
11 I arrived in Jerusalem city. After three days, 12 I went out at night. I took a few of my friends with me. I was riding on a donkey. That was the only animal that we took with us. I did not tell anyone the idea that God had put in my mind about Jerusalem. 13 I went through the Valley Gate to the Jackal Well and the Dung Gate. As I went, I looked carefully at Jerusalem's walls. They were broken. Fire had destroyed the city's gates.
2:13Each gate of the city had its own name. A jackal is a wild animal, like a dog.
14 I went to the Fountain Gate and then to the King's Pool. The path there was too narrow for my donkey to pass through. 15 So I went along the path in the valley while it was still night. I continued to look at the wall. I reached the Valley Gate again and I went back into the city. 16 The city's officers did not know that I had done this. I had not told anyone what I had decided to do. I had not told any of the other Jews, their priests, their leaders or the city's officers. I had not told any of the people who would help to do the work on the wall.
17 But then I said to them, ‘We have a big problem. Jerusalem has become a heap of stones. Fire has burned the gates. You must help to build the city's walls again. Then we will no longer be ashamed of our city.’
18 I told the people how God had helped me to come to Jerusalem. I told them what the king had said to me. Then the people said, ‘We will start to build now!’
The people prepared to start this good work. 19 But Sanballat, Tobiah and an Arab man called Geshem heard about what we were doing. They laughed at us and they insulted us. They said, ‘What are you trying to do? Have you turned against the king's authority?’
2:19Some time before Nehemiah went to Judah, enemies of the Jews had sent a letter to King Artaxerxes. The king had told the Jews to stop building the city. See Ezra 4:8-24.
20 I replied to them, ‘Our God who rules from heaven will help us. We are his servants and we will start to build. But you have never been true citizens of Jerusalem.’