1 In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, wine was set before him; I took the wine and gave it to the king—I had never been out of sorts in his presence.
א וַיְהִי בְּחֹדֶשׁ נִיסָן שְׁנַת עֶשְׂרִים לְאַרְתַּחְשַׁסְתְּא הַמֶּלֶךְ יַיִן לְפָנָיו וָאֶשָּׂא אֶת־הַיַּיִן וָאֶתְּנָה לַמֶּלֶךְ וְלֹא־הָיִיתִי רַע לְפָנָיו׃
2 The king said to me, “How is it that you look bad, though you are not ill? It must be bad thoughts.” I was very frightened,
ב וַיֹּאמֶר לִי הַמֶּלֶךְ מַדּוּעַ פָּנֶיךָ רָעִים וְאַתָּה אֵינְךָ חוֹלֶה אֵין זֶה כִּי־אִם רֹעַ לֵב וָאִירָא הַרְבֵּה מְאֹד׃
3 but I answered the king, “May the king live forever! How should I not look bad when the city of the graveyard of my ancestors lies in ruins, and its gates have been consumed by fire?”
ג וָאֹמַר לַמֶּלֶךְ הַמֶּלֶךְ לְעוֹלָם יִחְיֶה מַדּוּעַ לֹא־יֵרְעוּ פָנַי אֲשֶׁר הָעִיר בֵּית־קִבְרוֹת אֲבֹתַי חֲרֵבָה וּשְׁעָרֶיהָ אֻכְּלוּ בָאֵשׁ׃
4 The king said to me, “What is your request?” With a prayer to the God of Heaven,
ד וַיֹּאמֶר לִי הַמֶּלֶךְ עַל־מַה־זֶּה אַתָּה מְבַקֵּשׁ וָאֶתְפַּלֵּל אֶל־אֱלֹהֵי הַשָּׁמָיִם׃
5 I answered the king, “If it please the king, and if your servant has found favor with you, send me to Yehuda, to the city of my ancestors’ graves, to rebuild it.”
6 With the consort seated at his side, the king said to me, “How long will you be gone and when will you return?” So it was agreeable to the king to send me, and I gave him a date.
ו וַיֹּאמֶר לִי הַמֶּלֶךְ וְהַשֵּׁגַל יוֹשֶׁבֶת אֶצְלוֹ עַד־מָתַי יִהְיֶה מַהֲלָכֲךָ וּמָתַי תָּשׁוּב וַיִּיטַב לִפְנֵי־הַמֶּלֶךְ וַיִּשְׁלָחֵנִי וָאֶתְּנָה לוֹ זְמָן׃
8 likewise, a letter to Asaf, the keeper of the King’s Park, directing him to give me timber for roofing the gatehouses of the temple fortress and the city walls and for the house I shall occupy.” The king gave me these, thanks to my God’s benevolent care for me.
ח וְאִגֶּרֶת אֶל־אָסָף שֹׁמֵר הַפַּרְדֵּס אֲשֶׁר לַמֶּלֶךְ אֲשֶׁר יִתֶּן־לִי עֵצִים לְקָרוֹת אֶת־שַׁעֲרֵי הַבִּירָה אֲשֶׁר־לַבַּיִת וּלְחוֹמַת הָעִיר וְלַבַּיִת אֲשֶׁר־אָבוֹא אֵלָיו וַיִּתֶּן־לִי הַמֶּלֶךְ כְּיַד־אֱלֹהַי הַטּוֹבָה עָלָי׃
9 When I came to the governors of the province of Beyond the River I gave them the king’s letters. The king also sent army officers and cavalry with me.
ט וָאָבוֹא אֶל־פַּחֲווֹת עֵבֶר הַנָּהָר וָאֶתְּנָה לָהֶם אֵת אִגְּרוֹת הַמֶּלֶךְ וַיִּשְׁלַח עִמִּי הַמֶּלֶךְ שָׂרֵי חַיִל וּפָרָשִׁים׃
10 When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant heard, it displeased them greatly that someone had come, intent on improving the condition of the Israelites.
11 I arrived in Yerushalayim. After I was there three days
יא וָאָבוֹא אֶל־יְרוּשָׁלָ ִם וָאֱהִי־שָׁם יָמִים שְׁלֹשָׁה׃
12 I got up at night, I and a few men with me, and telling no one what my God had put into my mind to do for Yerushalayim, and taking no other beast than the one on which I was riding,
יב וָאָקוּם לַיְלָה אֲנִי וַאֲנָשִׁים מְעַט עִמִּי וְלֹא־הִגַּדְתִּי לְאָדָם מָה אֱלֹהַי נֹתֵן אֶל־לִבִּי לַעֲשׂוֹת לִירוּשָׁלָ ִם וּבְהֵמָה אֵין עִמִּי כִּי אִם־הַבְּהֵמָה אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי רֹכֵב בָּהּ׃
15 So I went up the wadi by night, surveying the wall, and, entering again by the Valley Gate, I returned.
טו וָאֱהִי עֹלֶה בַנַּחַל לַיְלָה וָאֱהִי שֹׂבֵר בַּחוֹמָה וָאָשׁוּב וָאָבוֹא בְּשַׁעַר הַגַּיְא וָאָשׁוּב׃
16 The prefects knew nothing of where I had gone or what I had done, since I had not yet divulged it to the Yehudim—the Kohanim, the nobles, the prefects, or the rest of the officials.
טז וְהַסְּגָנִים לֹא יָדְעוּ אָנָה הָלַכְתִּי וּמָה אֲנִי עֹשֶׂה וְלַיְּהוּדִים וְלַכֹּהֲנִים וְלַחֹרִים וְלַסְּגָנִים וּלְיֶתֶר עֹשֵׂה הַמְּלָאכָה עַד־כֵּן לֹא הִגַּדְתִּי׃
va-o-MAR a-lay-HEM a-TEM ro-EEM ha-ra-AH a-SHER a-NAKH-nu VAH a-SHER y’-ru-sha-LA-im kha-ray-VAH ush-a-RE-ha ni-tz’-TU va-AYSH l’-KHU v’-niv-NEH et KHO-mat y’-ru-sha-LA-im v’-lo nih-YEH OD kher-PAH
יז וָאוֹמַר אֲלֵהֶם אַתֶּם רֹאִים הָרָעָה אֲשֶׁר אֲנַחְנוּ בָהּ אֲשֶׁר יְרוּשָׁלַ ִם חֲרֵבָה וּשְׁעָרֶיהָ נִצְּתוּ בָאֵשׁ לְכוּ וְנִבְנֶה אֶת־חוֹמַת יְרוּשָׁלַ ִם וְלֹא־נִהְיֶה עוֹד חֶרְפָּה׃
2:17 Come, let us rebuild the wall of Yerushalayim
One of the Jewish prayers recited on the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, the day of the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash, states: “You destroyed Jerusalem by fire, so too will You rebuild it with fire.” Near the Western Wall, archeologists uncovered a complex destroyed in the Roman fires of 70 CE, and spear-pierced skeletal remains found there gave silent testimony to the tragedy. Destruction by fire is comprehensible, but the idea of construction by fire is more difficult to understand. Perhaps it indicates the degree of passion necessary to engage in such a task. If this is the case, indeed we have merited living in a time where the latter fire is burning brighter, and many are answering Nechemya’s call: “Come, let us rebuild!”Comment
18 I told them of my God’s benevolent care for me, also of the things that the king had said to me, and they said, “Let us start building!” They were encouraged by [His] benevolence.
יח וָאַגִּיד לָהֶם אֶת־יַד אֱלֹהַי אֲשֶׁר־הִיא טוֹבָה עָלַי וְאַף־דִּבְרֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲשֶׁר אָמַר־לִי וַיֹּאמְרוּ נָקוּם וּבָנִינוּ וַיְחַזְּקוּ יְדֵיהֶם לַטּוֹבָה׃
19 When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard, they mocked us and held us in contempt and said, “What is this that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?”
20 I said to them in reply, “The God of Heaven will grant us success, and we, His servants, will start building. But you have no share or claim or stake in Yerushalayim!”
כ וָאָשִׁיב אוֹתָם דָּבָר וָאוֹמַר לָהֶם אֱלֹהֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם הוּא יַצְלִיחַ לָנוּ וַאֲנַחְנוּ עֲבָדָיו נָקוּם וּבָנִינוּ וְלָכֶם אֵין־חֵלֶק וּצְדָקָה וְזִכָּרוֹן בִּירוּשָׁלָ ִם׃