V1 These are the words of Nehemiah, son of Hacaliah. It was the month Kislev. This was when King Artaxerxes had ruled for 20 years. I was in the king’s house in the city called Susa. v2 Hanani, my brother and some men arrived. They came from Judah. I asked them for news of the *Jews who had earlier returned from Babylon. I asked them about Jerusalem city. v3 They told me, ‘The *Jews who returned to Judah are in much trouble. And they are ashamed. Their enemies have broken down the city walls and have burnt the gates.’
V4 After they told me this, I sat down. And I cried. During many days, I was very sad. I did not eat or drink. I prayed to God.
V5 I prayed, ‘Oh *Lord, God of *heaven, you are great and powerful. You are so great that I cannot come near to you. You always *keep your promises to the people that you have chosen. You do this because you love them. But they must love and obey you. v6 Listen to my words. I am your servant. I am praying to you. I pray in the day and in the night. I am praying on behalf of the people of Israel. They are your servants. We have all done wrong things. I and my *family have not obeyed you. The people of Israel have not obeyed your *laws. v7 We have all gone against you. We have not obeyed the *laws that you gave to your servant Moses.
V8 Remember what you told Moses. You told him, “If you do not obey my *laws and love me, I will make you live in foreign lands. I will cause you to become separate. You will not be together. v9 But my people must return to me and obey my *laws. Then I will let them live in the place that I have chosen. Even if they live far away, I will find them. They can live in the place that I have chosen for my name.” That is what you told Moses.’
The people of Israel are the *Jews. Exodus 20 tells us the *laws that God gave to Moses. ‘My name’ here means the place where people should *worship God.
people are your servants. You saved them from their enemies with your great power. They cost you much. v11 Please listen to my *prayer. I am your servant. The people of Israel are your servants. We *worship your name. Let the king be happy with me. Let Artaxerxes give me what I ask.’
I was the king’s cupbearer.
A cupbearer looked after the king’s wine. Wine is a drink made from *grapes. Nehemiah would have to taste the wine. He would make sure that it was safe for the king to drink. As cupbearer, Nehemiah would have authority in the king’s house. The king would believe what Nehemiah told him.
V1 It was the month of Nisan. King Artaxerxes had ruled Babylon for 20 years. I brought the king’s *wine. I gave the *wine to the king. I was sad. I had not been sad in front of the king before. v2 The king asked me, ‘Why are you sad? You are not ill. This must mean that you are not happy.’ I was afraid.
Servants had to be happy in front of the king. Nehemiah was afraid because the king might be angry with him.
V3 I replied, ‘Let the king live always! I am sad because they have destroyed my *ancestors’ city. Our enemies have burned the city’s gates.’ v4 The king asked me, ‘What do you want?’ So I prayed to God. v5 Then I replied to the king, ‘If it gives the king pleasure, might he send me there? Then if he is happy with his servant Nehemiah, I can build the city again. They buried my *ancestors there.’ v6 The king sat with the queen next to him. The king asked me, ‘How long will you be away? When will you return?’ The king was happy to let me go to Judah.