1This is the account of Nehemiah, son of Hacaliah. In the month of Kislev, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes' reign, I was in the fortress at Susa.
2Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men. I asked them about the remnant of the Jewish exiles who had returned from captivity, and also about Jerusalem.
3They told me, “The remnant who are left from the exile are there in the province, but they are having a great deal of trouble and feel humiliated. Jerusalem's walls have been knocked over, and its gates burned down.”
4When I heard the news, I sat down, weeping and mourning for days, fasting and praying to the God of heaven.
5Then I prayed, “Please, Lord God of heaven—the great and awesome God who keeps his agreement of trustworthy love with those who love him and keep his commandments—
6please listen and focus your attention on the prayer of your servant that I am praying to you now, day and night, on behalf of your servants, the Israelites. I confess the sins that we Israelites have committed against you, including my own sins and those of my family.
7We have done terrible things to offend you and we have not kept the commandments, laws, and regulations that you gave to your servant Moses.
8Please remember what you told Moses when you said, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations,
9but if you come back to me and follow my commandments and obey them, then even if you are exiled to the ends of the earth, I will gather them together and bring them to the place I have chosen where I will be honored.
10They are your servants and our people. You saved them by your great power and incredible ability.
11Lord, please respond to my prayer and to the prayers of those who love to worship you. Please let me be successful today and make the king sympathetic to me.” I was the king's cupbearer.