Artaxerses allowed Nehemiah to go to Jerusalem
1 After King Artaxerxes had been ruling the Persian Empire for almost twenty years, ◄during the spring/before the hot season► of that year, when it was time to serve wine to him during a feast, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had never looked sad when I was in front of him before, but on that day he saw that I looked very sad. 2 So he asked me, “Why are you sad? I know that you are not sick. It must be that you are sad in your inner being.” Then I was very afraid, because it was not proper to be sad when I came to the king (OR, because I was worried what the king would do to me if he refused to do what I was about to request him to do).
3 I replied, “Your majesty, I hope you will live a very long time! But ◄how can I prevent myself from being sad, because the city where my ancestors are buried has been destroyed and is in ruins?/I cannot keep myself from looking sad, because the city where my ancestors are buried has been destroyed and is in ruins.► [RHQ] Even the city gates have been completely burned.”
4 The king replied, “What do you want me to do for you?”
I prayed silently to our God who is/rules in heaven 5 Then I replied, “If you are willing to do it, and if I have pleased you, send me to the city of Jerusalem in Judah province where my ancestors are buried, in order that I may help people to rebuild the city.”
6 While the queen was sitting beside the king, he asked, “If I allow you to go, how long will you be gone? When will you return?” I told the king how long I would be gone, and the king gave me permission to go, and I told him what day I wanted to leave.
7 I also said to the king, “If you are willing to do it, write letters for me to take to the governors of the province west of the Euphrates River. Tell them to allow me to travel safely through their province until I arrive in Judah. 8 Also, please write a letter to Asaph, the man who takes care of your forest in that area, telling him to give me timber to make the beams to support the gates of the fortress that is near the temple, and timber for making the walls of the city, and for building the house in which I will live.” The king did what I requested him to do, because my God was graciously/kindly ◄helping/acting for► me.
9 After I got ready, I left to travel to Judah. The king sent some army officers and soldiers riding on horses to accompany me, to protect me. When I came to where the governors of the provinces west of the Euphrates River lived, I gave them the letters that the king had written.
10 But when two government officials, Sanballat from a village near Horon and Tobiah from the Ammon people-group, heard that I had arrived, they were very angry that someone had come to help the Israeli people.
Nehemiah inspected the walls of Jerusalem
11-12 When I arrived in Jerusalem, I did not tell anyone what thoughts God had given to me about what I should do there. Three days after I arrived in Jerusalem, I went out of the city in the evening, taking a few men with me. I was riding a donkey; we had no other animals with us.
13 We left the city, going out through the Valley Gate, then past the well called the Jackal (OR, Dragon's) Well, and then past the gate called the Rubbish/Garbage Gate. We inspected all the walls that had been broken down and all the gates that had been burned down. 14 Then we went to the Fountain Gate and to the pool called the King's Pool, but my donkey could not get through the narrow opening (OR, the rubble). 15 So we turned back and went along the Kidron Valley. We inspected the wall there before we turned back/around and entered the city again at the Valley Gate. 16 The city officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, because I had not told anyone about what I planned to do. I had not said anything about it to the Jewish leaders or the officials or the priests or any of the others who would be helping me in the work that I wanted to do.
17 But now I said to them, “You all know very well the terrible things that have happened to our city. The city is ruined; even the gates are burned down. So we should rebuild the city wall. If we do that, we will no longer feel humiliated/disgraced.” 18 Then I told them about how God had kindly/graciously helped me when I talked to the king, and what the king had said to me.
They immediately replied, “Let's start rebuilding!” So they started to do this good work.
19 But when Sanballat, Tobiah, and Gershom the Arab king of the Kedar region heard about what we planned to do, they made fun of us and ridiculed us. They said, “What is this work that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king again?” [RHQ]
20 But I replied, “Our God who is/rules in heaven will help our plans to succeed. But as for you, you have no right to decide anything about this city, because you have not participated in what has happened in this city in previous years.”