1It came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, when wine was before him, that I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad before in his presence.
2The king said to me, “Why is your face sad, since you are not sick? This is nothing else but sorrow of heart.” Then I was very much afraid.
3I 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 waste, and its gates have been consumed with fire?”
4Then the king said to me, “What is your request?” So I prayed to the God of heaven.
5I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor before you, send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, that I may rebuild it.”
7Moreover I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, let letters be given to me for the governors beyond the River, so that they will let me pass through until I come to Judah,
8and a letter to Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest, that he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple, for the wall of the city, and for the house that I will occupy.” The king granted my requests, for the good hand of my God was upon me.
9Then I came to the governors beyond the River and gave them the king’s letters. Now the king had sent with me captains of the army and horsemen.
10When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, heard of it, it grieved them exceedingly that a man had come to seek the welfare of the children of Israel.
11So I came to Jerusalem and was there three days.
12I arose in the night, I and some few men with me. I did not tell anyone what my God put into my heart to do for Jerusalem, nor was there any animal with me except the animal that I rode on.
13I went out by night by the valley gate, even toward the jackal’s well and to the dung gate, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem that were broken down, and its gates that had been consumed by fire.
14Then I went on to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool, but there was no place for the animal that was under me to pass.
15Then went I up in the night by the ravine and viewed the wall, and I turned back and entered by the Valley Gate, and so returned.
16The rulers did not know where I went or what I did, nor had I as yet told it to the Jews, nor to the priests, nor to the nobles, nor to the rulers, nor to the rest who did the work.
17Then I said to them, “You see the bad situation that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste and its gates are burned with fire. Come, let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, so that we will no longer be a disgrace.”
18I told them of the gracious hand of my God that had been upon me, and also of the king’s words that he had spoken to me. They said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work.
19But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian heard it, they ridiculed us and spoke of us with contempt, and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Will you rebel against the king?”