The Bible – Old Testament
In the month Nisan of the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when the wine was in my charge, I took some and offered it to the king. As I had never before been sad in his presence,
the king asked me, “Why do you look sad? If you are not sick, you must be sad at heart.” Though I was seized with great fear,
I answered the king: “May the king live forever! How could I not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been eaten out by fire?”
The king asked me, “What is it, then, that you wish?” I prayed to the God of heaven
and then answered the king: “If it please the king, and if your servant is deserving of your favor, send me to Judah, to the city of my ancestors’ graves, to rebuild it.”
Then the king, and the queen seated beside him, asked me how long my journey would take and when I would return. I set a date that was acceptable to him, and the king agreed that I might go.
I asked the king further: “If it please the king, let letters be given to me for the governors of West-of-Euphrates, that they may afford me safe-conduct till I arrive in Judah;
also a letter for Asaph, the keeper of the royal park, that he may give me wood for timbering the gates of the temple-citadel and for the city wall and the house that I shall occupy.” The king granted my requests, for the favoring hand of my God was upon me.
Thus I proceeded to the governors of West-of-Euphrates and presented the king’s letters to them. The king also sent with me army officers and cavalry.
1 When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite slave had heard of this, they were very much displeased that someone had come to seek the welfare of the Israelites.
When I had arrived in Jerusalem, I first rested there for three days.
Then I set out by night with only a few other men (for I had not told anyone what my God had inspired me to do for Jerusalem) and with no other animals but my own mount.
2 I rode out at night by the Valley Gate, passed by the Dragon Spring, and came to the Dung Gate, observing how the walls of Jerusalem lay in ruins and its gates had been eaten out by fire.
Then I passed over to the Spring Gate and to the King’s Pool. Since there was no room here for my mount to pass with me astride,
I continued on foot up the wadi by night, inspecting the wall all the while till I once more reached the Valley Gate, by which I went back in.
The magistrates knew nothing of where I had gone or what I was doing, for as yet I had disclosed nothing to the Jews, neither to the priests, nor to the nobles, nor to the magistrates, nor to the others who would be concerned about the matter.
Afterward I said to them: “You see the evil plight in which we stand: how Jerusalem lies in ruins and its gates have been gutted by fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, so that we may no longer be an object of derision!”
Then I explained to them how the favoring hand of my God had rested upon me, and what the king had said to me. They replied, “Let us be up and building!” And they undertook the good work with vigor.
On hearing of this, Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite slave, and Geshem the Arab mocked us and ridiculed us. “What is this that you are about?” they asked. “Are you rebelling against the king?”
3 My answer to them was this: “It is the God of heaven who will grant us success. We, his servants, shall set about the rebuilding; but for you there is to be neither share nor claim nor memorial in Jerusalem.”
1  Sanballat the Horonite: the governor of the province of Samaria [⇒ Nehemiah 3:32(33,34)], apparently a native of one of the Beth-horons. A letter from the Jews living at Elephantine in southern Egypt, dated 408-407 B. C., mentions “Delayah and Shelemyah, the sons of Sanballat, the governor of Samaria.” Although his own name was Babylonian-Sin-uballit, i.e., “Sin (the moon god) has given life”-his two sons had names referring to Yahweh. Tobiah, the Ammonite slave: the governor of the province of Ammon in Transjordan. His honorary title, “servant” (in Hebrew, ebed), i.e., of the king, could also be understood as slave, and Nehemiah no doubt meant it in this derogatory sense. The Tobiads remained a powerful family even in Maccabean times (⇒ 2 Macc 3:11). Sanballat and Tobiah, together with Geshem the Arab (⇒ Nehemiah 2:19; ⇒ 6:1, 2), who was probably in charge of Edom and the regions to the south and southeast of Judah, opposed the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls on political grounds; the city was the capital of a rival province.
2 [13-15] Nehemiah left Jerusalem by the Valley Gate near the northwestern end of the old City of David and went south down the Tyropoean Valley toward the Dragon Spring (or the En-rogel of ⇒ Joshua 15:7; ⇒ 18:16; ⇒ 2 Sam 17:17; ⇒ 1 Kings 1:9 now known as Job’s Well) at the juncture of the Valley of Hinnom and the Kidron Valley; he then turned north at the Dung Gate (or the Potsherd Gate of ⇒ Jeremiah 19:2) at the southern end of the city and proceeded up the wadi, that is, the Kidron Valley, passing the Spring Gate (at the Spring of Gihon) and the King’s Pool (unidentified); finally he turned west and then south to his starting point.
3  Neither share nor claim nor memorial: although Sanballat and Tobiah were Yahwist, Nehemiah would not let them participate in any of the rights of the religious community in Jerusalem.