Nehemiah 2 International Standard Version (ISV)
Nehemiah’s Conversation with the King
2 It came about in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, during the month of Nissan, the king was about to drink some wine that I was preparing for him.[a] Now I had never looked troubled in his presence.
2 The king asked me, “Why do you look so troubled, since you’re not ill? This cannot be anything else but troubles of the heart.”
Then I was filled with fear. 3 I replied to the king, “May the king live forever. Why shouldn’t I be troubled, since the city where my ancestral sepulchers are located lies waste, with its gates burned by fire?”
4 The king answered, “What do you want?”
So I prayed to the God of heaven 5 and I replied to the king, “If it seems good to you, and if your servant has found favor with you, would you send me to Judah, to the city where my ancestral sepulchers are located, so I can rebuild it?”
6 With his queen seated beside him, the king asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you return?” The king thought it was a good idea[b] to send me, so I presented him with a prepared plan.[c]
7 I also asked the king, “If it seems good to you, order that letters of authorization be given me for the Trans-Euphrates[d] governors, so they will allow me to pass through to Judah, 8 along with a letter to Asaph, the royal Commissioner of Forests, so that he will supply me with timber to craft beams for the gatehouses of the Temple, for the city walls, and for the house in which I will be living.”
The king granted this for me, according to the good hand of my God. 9 So I went to the Trans-Euphrates[e] governors and gave them the king’s letters of authorization. The king also sent army officers and cavalry to accompany me.
Opposition and Inspection
10 But when Sanballat the Horonite and his servant Tobiah the Ammonite heard of this, they were greatly distressed because someone had come to do good for the Israelis. 11 I arrived in Jerusalem and remained there for three days. 12 Then I got up at night, along with a few men with me. I had not confided to any person what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem. Furthermore, there was no other animal with me except for the one I was riding.
13 So I went out during the night through the Valley Gate toward Dragon’s[f] Well, and from there to the Dung Gate, inspecting the walls of Jerusalem that were broken down and burned by fire. 14 I proceeded to the Fountain Gate, and then to the King’s Pool, but there wasn’t sufficient clearance for the animal I was riding[g] to pass. 15 I traveled the valley by night to inspect the wall, returning through the Valley Gate. 16 The local officials did not know where I had gone or what I had done—I informed neither the Judeans, nor the priests, nor the nobles, nor the officials, nor any of the rest who would be doing the work.
17 Later I told them, “You all are watching the predicament we’re in, how Jerusalem lies desolate, with its gates burned by fire. Let’s rebuild the Jerusalem wall so we’re no longer a disgrace.” 18 Then I told them how good my God had been to[h] me, and about what the king had told me.
They replied, “Let’s get out there and build!” So they encouraged themselves to do good.
Nehemiah Replies to Sanballat
19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, his servant Tobiah the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arab heard about it,[i] they jeered at us and despised us when they said, “What is this thing that you’re doing? You’re rebelling against the king, aren’t you?”
20 In reply to them, I said, “The God of Heaven will prosper us. That’s why we’re preparing to build. But as far as you’re concerned, there exists no ancestral heritage, no legal right, nor any historic claim in Jerusalem.
Nehemiah 2 New International Version (NIV)
Artaxerxes Sends Nehemiah to Jerusalem
2 In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before, 2 so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.”
I was very much afraid, 3 but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”
4 The king said to me, “What is it you want?”
Then I prayed to the God of heaven, 5 and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.”
6 Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?” It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time.
7 I also said to him, “If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah? 8 And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the royal park, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?” And because the gracious hand of my God was on me, the king granted my requests. 9 So I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates and gave them the king’s letters. The king had also sent army officers and cavalry with me.
10 When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about this, they were very much disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites.
Nehemiah Inspects Jerusalem’s Walls
11 I went to Jerusalem, and after staying there three days 12 I set out during the night with a few others. I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem. There were no mounts with me except the one I was riding on.
13 By night I went out through the Valley Gate toward the Jackal[a] Well and the Dung Gate, examining the walls of Jerusalem, which had been broken down, and its gates, which had been destroyed by fire. 14 Then I moved on toward the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool, but there was not enough room for my mount to get through; 15 so I went up the valley by night, examining the wall. Finally, I turned back and reentered through the Valley Gate. 16 The officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, because as yet I had said nothing to the Jews or the priests or nobles or officials or any others who would be doing the work.
17 Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” 18 I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me.
They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work.
19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. “What is this you are doing?” they asked. “Are you rebelling against the king?”
20 I answered them by saying, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.”