GOD'S WORD® Translation
1In the month of Nisan, in Artaxerxes' twentieth year as king, after some wine was brought for the king, I picked up the cup of wine and gave it to the king. I had never been sad in his presence before. 2The king asked me, "Why do you look so sad? You aren't sick, are you? You must be troubled about something." (I was really afraid.) 3"May the king live forever!" I said to the king. "Why shouldn't I look sad when the city, the place where my ancestors are buried, is in ruins and its gates are burned down?" 4"What do you want?" the king asked me. So I prayed to the God of heaven, 5and I asked the king, "If it pleases Your Majesty, and you are willing to grant my request, let me go to Judah, to the city where my ancestors are buried, so that I can rebuild it." 6Then, while the queen was sitting beside him, the king asked me, "How long will you be gone, and when will you come back?" When I gave him a specific date, he was willing to let me go. 7I also asked the king, "If it pleases Your Majesty, let me have letters addressed to the governors [of the province] west of the Euphrates River. In the letters tell them to grant me safe conduct until I arrive in Judah. 8Also, let me have a letter addressed to Asaph, the supervisor of Your Majesty's forest. In the letter order him to give me wood for the gates of the fortress near the temple, for the city wall, and for the house I'll move into." (The king let me have the letters, because God was guiding me.)
9I went to the governors [of the province] west of the Euphrates River and gave them the king's letters. (The king had sent army officers and cavalry to be with me.) 10But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant heard this, they were very upset that someone had come to give the people of Israel so much assistance.
11I went to Jerusalem and was there for three days. 12During the night I went out with a few men without telling anyone what my God had inspired me to do for Jerusalem. The only animal I had was the one I was riding. 13I went through Valley Gate that night toward Snake Fountain and Dung Gate and examined the places where the walls of Jerusalem were broken down and where its gates had been burned. 14Passing through Fountain Gate, I arrived at King's Pool, but the animal I was riding couldn't get through. 15So I went through the valley that night and examined the wall. Then I turned back, entered Valley Gate, and returned. 16The officials didn't know where I had gone or what I had done. I hadn't yet told the Jews, the priests, the leaders, the other officials, or any of the rest who would be doing the work.
17Then I told them, "You see the trouble we're in. Jerusalem is in ruins, and its gates are burned down. Let's rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be insulted." 18Then I told them that my God had been guiding me and what the king had told me. They replied, "Let's begin to rebuild." So they encouraged one another to begin this God-pleasing work. 19When Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite servant, and Geshem the Arab heard about this, they made fun of us and ridiculed us. They asked, "What are you doing? Are you going to rebel against the king?" 20"The God of heaven will give us success," I answered them. "We, his servants, are going to rebuild. You have no property or claim or historic right in Jerusalem."