1 In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, when wine was before him. I served the wine to the king. Never before had I been sad when the king was present.
2 The king said to me: »Why is your face sad, seeing that you are not ill? This is nothing but sorrow of heart.« Then I was full of fear.
3 I said to the king: »May the king live a very long time. My face should look sad for the town where my fathers are buried is devastated. It has been destroyed by fire.«
4 The king asked: »What is your desire?« So I made prayer to the God of heaven.
5 I said to the king: »If it is the king's will, and if your servant has your approval, send me to Judah, to the town where the bodies of my fathers are buried, so that I may rebuild it.«
6 The queen sat by him when the king said: »How long will your journey take? When will you come back? So the king was pleased to send me, and I gave him a fixed time.
7 Further, I said to the king: »If it is the king's pleasure, let letters be given to me for the rulers across the river so that they may let me go through till I come to Judah.
8 »I need a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king's park, so that he may give me wood to make boards for the doors of the tower of the house, and for the wall of the town, and for the house which is to be mine.« The king gave me this, for the hand of my God was on me.
9 Then I came to the rulers of the lands across the river and gave them the king's letters. Now the king sent with me captains of the army and horsemen.
10 Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, heard I was coming. They were greatly troubled because a man came to help from the children of Israel.
11 I stayed at Jerusalem for three days.
12 I got up in the night and took a small band of men with me. I said nothing to any man of what God put into my heart to do for Jerusalem, I had no beast with me but the one on which I was seated.
13 I went in the dark through the gateway of the valley past the Fountain of the Snake Serpents Well as far as the place where waste material was stored. From there I viewed the broken down walls of Jerusalem and the gateways that were burned with fire.
14 Then I went on to the door of the fountain and to the king's pool: but there was no room for my beast to get through.
15 Then in the night I went up by the stream, viewed the wall and then turned back. I went in by the valley gate.
16 The chiefs had no knowledge of where I had been or what I was doing. I had not then said anything to the Jews or to the priests or the great ones or the chiefs or the rest of those who were doing the work.
17 Then I said to them: »You see what a bad condition we are in. How Jerusalem is a waste. Its gateways burned with fire. Come; let us get to work, building up the wall of Jerusalem, so that we may no longer be put to shame.«
18 Then I gave them an account of how the hand of my God was on me, helping me. I told them of the king's words he said to me. They said: »Let us get to work on the building.« So they made their hands strong for the good work.
19 But Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian, hearing of it, made sport of us. They laughed at us and said: »What are you doing? Will you go against the king?«
20 I answered them: »The God of heaven will be our help; so we, his servants, will go on with our building. But you have no part or right or any name in Jerusalem.«