It happened in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, when wine was before him, that I took up the wine, and gave it to the king. Now I had not been [before] sad in his presence.
The king said to me, "Why is your face sad, since you are not sick? This is nothing else but sorrow of heart." Then I was very much afraid.
I said to the king, "Let the king live forever! Why shouldn't my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' tombs, lies waste, and its gates have been consumed with fire?"
Then the king said to me, "For what do you make request?" So I prayed to the God of heaven.
I said to the king, "If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you would send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers' tombs, that I may build it."
The king said to me (the queen was also sitting by him), "For how long shall your journey be? And when will you return?" So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time.
Moreover I said to the king, "If it pleases the king, let letters be given me to the governors beyond the River, that they may let me pass through until I come to Judah;
and a letter to Asaph the keeper of the king's forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple, for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into." The king granted my requests, because of the good hand of my God on me.
Then I came to the governors beyond the River, and gave them the king's letters. Now the king had sent with me captains of the army and horsemen.
When Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, heard of it, it grieved them exceedingly, because a man had come to seek the welfare of the children of Israel.
So I came to Jerusalem, and was there three days.
I arose in the night, I and some few men with me; neither told I any man what my God put into my heart to do for Jerusalem; neither was there any animal with me, except the animal that I rode on.
I went out by night by the valley gate, even toward the jackal's well, and to the dung gate, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem, which were broken down, and its gates were consumed with fire.
Then I went on to the spring gate and to the king's pool: but there was no place for the animal that was under me to pass.
Then went I up in the night by the brook, and viewed the wall; and I turned back, and entered by the valley gate, and so returned.
The rulers didn't know where I went, or what I did; neither had I as yet told it to the Jews, nor to the priests, nor to the nobles, nor to the rulers, nor to the rest who did the work.
Then I said to them, "You see the evil case that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire. Come, let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we won't be disgraced."
I told them of the hand of my God which was good on me, as also of the king's words that he had spoken to me. They said, "Let's rise up and build." So they strengthened their hands for the good work.
But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian, heard it, they ridiculed us, and despised us, and said, "What is this thing that you are doing? Will you rebel against the king?"
Then answered I them, and said to them, "The God of heaven will prosper us. Therefore we, his servants, will arise and build; but you have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem."