2 In the month of Niʹsan,* in the 20th year+ of King Ar·ta·xerxʹes,+ wine was set before him, and as usual I took up the wine and gave it to the king.+ But I had never been gloomy in his presence. 2 So the king said to me: “Why do you look so gloomy when you are not sick? This can be nothing but gloominess of heart.” At this I became very frightened.
3 Then I said to the king: “Long live the king! Why should I not look gloomy when the city, the place where my forefathers are buried, lies in ruins, and its gates have been consumed by fire?”+ 4 The king then said to me: “What is it that you are seeking?” At once I prayed to the God of the heavens.+ 5 I then said to the king: “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor with you, send me to Judah, to the city where my forefathers are buried, so that I may rebuild it.”+ 6 Then the king, with his royal consort* sitting beside him, said to me: “How long will your journey be, and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me,+ and I gave him a set time.+
7 Then I said to the king: “If it pleases the king, let letters be given me for the governors of the region Beyond the River,*+ granting me safe passage until I reach Judah, 8 as well as a letter to Aʹsaph the keeper of the Royal Park,* so that he may give me timber for beams for the gates of the Fortress+ of the House* and for the walls of the city+ and for the house where I will go.” So the king gave them to me,+ for the good hand of my God was upon me.+
9 Eventually I came to the governors of the region Beyond the River and gave them the king’s letters. The king also sent with me army chiefs and horsemen. 10 When San·balʹlat+ the Horʹo·nite and To·biʹah+ the Amʹmon·ite+ official* heard about it, they were very displeased that someone had come to do something good for the people of Israel.
11 At length I came to Jerusalem, and I stayed there for three days. 12 I rose up by night, I and a few men with me, and I did not tell anyone what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem, and there was no animal with me except the one I was riding. 13 And I went out at night through the Valley Gate,+ passing in front of the Fountain of the Big Snake to the Gate of the Ash Heaps,+ and I inspected the walls of Jerusalem that were broken down and its gates that had been consumed by fire.+ 14 And I passed along to the Fountain Gate+ and to the King’s Pool, and there was not enough space for the animal I was riding to pass. 15 But I continued up the valley*+ by night, and I kept inspecting the wall, after which I came back and entered through the Valley Gate, and then I returned.
16 The deputy rulers+ did not know where I had gone and what I was doing, for I had not yet said anything to the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the deputy rulers, and the rest of the workers. 17 Finally I said to them: “You can see what a terrible situation we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, so that this disgrace will not continue.” 18 Then I told them of how the good hand of my God was upon me+ and also of the words that the king had spoken to me.+ At this they said: “Let us get up and build.” So they strengthened themselves* for the good work.+
19 Now when San·balʹlat the Horʹo·nite, To·biʹah+ the Amʹmon·ite+ official,* and Geʹshem the Arabian+ heard of it, they began to mock us+ and show us their contempt and say: “What are you doing? Are you rebelling against the king?”+ 20 However, I replied: “The God of the heavens is the One who will grant us success,+ and we his servants will get up and build; but you have neither share nor claim nor memorial* in Jerusalem.”+