1In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes' reign, when the wine was brought in for him, I picked it up and gave it to the king. I had never before appeared before him looking sad,
2so the king asked me, “Why are you looking so sad, even though you don't seem to sick? You must be really upset.” I was absolutely terrified,
3but I replied to the king, “Long live the king live! How can I help being sad? The city where my forefathers are buried is in ruins, and its gates have been burned down.”
4“So what do you want?” the king asked me. I prayed to the God of heaven, and answered the king,
5“If it pleases Your Majesty, and if you are happy with me, I request you send me to Judah, to the city where my forefathers are buried, so I can rebuild it.”
6The king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you come back?” The king agreed to send me, and I told him how long I would be gone.
7I also asked him, “If it pleases Your Majesty, let letters be provided to give to the governors west of the Euphrates, so that they will allow me to pass safely until I reach Judah.
8May I also have a letter for Asaph, warden of the king's forest, so he can give me timber to make beams for the gates of Temple fortress, for the city walls, and for the house I will live in.” Because my gracious God was upon me, the king gave me what I asked.
9Then I went to the governors of the province west of the Euphrates and gave them the king's letters. The king also sent a military escort of cavalry with me.
10But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about this, they were upset. For them this was a total disaster—that someone had arrived to help out the Israelites.
11I arrived in Jerusalem and rested for three days.
12Then I got up during the night and went out with just a few men. I didn't explain to anyone what my God had put in my head to do for Jerusalem. I only took one horse to ride.
13So I rode in the dark through the Valley Gate toward the Spring of the Serpent and the Refuse Gate, and I inspected Jerusalem's walls that had been knocked over and the gates that had been burned down.
14Then I continued on to the Fountain Gate and the King's Pool, but we couldn't get through as there wasn't enough room to pass.
15So I went up along the valley in the dark and inspected the wall. Then I returned, going back through the Valley Gate.
16Those in charge of the city had no idea where I had gone or what I was doing, because I hadn't yet told the Jews, priests, nobles, or officials or any others about the construction plans.
17Then I said to them, “Look at the trouble we're in! Jerusalem is a heap of rubble, and its gates have been burned down. Come on, let's rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, so that we won't be so ashamed any more.”
18Then I explained to them how good God had been to me, and what the king had told me. “Let's get on with the rebuilding,” they replied, and they set to work enthusiastically.
19But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab got to hear about it, they mocked and taunted us, asking, “What are you up to? Are you rebelling against the king?”
20But I replied, telling them, “The God of heaven, he will make sure we're successful. We, his servants, will begin rebuilding, but Jerusalem doesn't belong to you, and you have no authority over it or claim to it.”