Nehemiah’s Prayer Answered
1In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was placed before him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not [previously] been sad in his presence. 2 So the king said to me, “Why do you look sad when you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of heart.” Then I was very frightened, 3 and I said to the king, “Let the king live forever. Why should my face not be sad when the city, the place of my fathers’ tombs, lies desolate and its gates have been consumed by fire?” 4 The king said to me, “What do you request?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. 5 I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your presence, [I ask] that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, so that I may rebuild it.” 6 The king, beside whom the queen was sitting, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me, and I gave him a definite time [for my return]. 7 Then I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, let letters be given to me for the governors of the provinces beyond the [Euphrates] River, so that they will allow me to pass through until I reach Judah, 8 and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forest, so that he will give me timber to construct beams for the gates of the fortress which is by the temple, and for the city wall and for the house which I will occupy.” And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.
9 Then I came to the governors of the provinces beyond the [Euphrates] River and gave them the king’s letters. Now the king had sent officers of the army and horsemen with me. 10 When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite [a]official heard this, it caused them great displeasure that someone had come to see about the welfare and prosperity of the Israelites.
Nehemiah Inspects Jerusalem’s Walls
11 So I came to Jerusalem and was there for three days. 12 Then I got up in the night, I and a few men with me. I did not tell anyone what my God was putting in my heart to do for Jerusalem, and there was no animal with me except the one on which I was riding [so as not to attract attention]. 13 So I went out at night by the Valley Gate toward the Dragon’s Well and to the Refuse Gate and inspected the walls of Jerusalem which were broken down and its gates which were consumed by fire. 14 Then I passed over to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool, but there was no place for the animal that I was riding to pass. 15 So I went up at night by the ravine [of Kidron] and inspected the wall; then I turned back and entered [the city] by the Valley Gate, and returned. 16 The officials did not know where I had gone or what I had done; nor had I yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, or the rest who did the work.
17 Then I said to them, “You see the bad situation that we are in—how Jerusalem is desolate and lies in ruins and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, and let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, so that we will no longer be a disgrace.” 18 Then I told them how the hand of my God had been favorable to me and also about the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us [b]rise up and build.” So they thoroughly supported the good work. 19 But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked us and regarded us with contempt and said, “What is this thing you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” 20 I answered them, “The God of heaven [has appointed us for His purpose and] will give us success; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no portion, right, or memorial in Jerusalem.”