And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him: and I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence.
I took up
Wherefore the king said unto me, Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart. Then I was very sore afraid,
Why is thy
Probably the king spoke as if he had some suspicion that Nehemiah harboured some bad design, and that his face indicated some conceived treachery, or remorse; and, indeed, the words rendered sad, and sorrow of heart, might be rendered evil, and wickedness of heart.
And said unto the king, Let the king live for ever: why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?
Let the king
Far from wishing ill to my master, I wish him to live for ever.
Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven.
So I prayed
And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers' sepulchres, that I may build it.
If it please
and if thy
And the king said unto me, (the queen also sitting by him,) For how long shall thy journey be? and when wilt thou return? So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time.
Heb. the wife. It was probably Esther who was present at this time, and who seconded Nehemiah's request.
So it pleased
I set him a time
It is probable that this time was no more than six months, or a year; after which he either returned, or had his leave of absence lengthened, as we find he was twelve years governor of the Jews.
Moreover I said unto the king, If it please the king, let letters be given me to the governors beyond the river, that they may convey me over till I come into Judah;
that they may
And a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king's forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into. And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me.
Then I came to the governors beyond the river, and gave them the king's letters. Now the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with me.
to the governors
When Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, heard of it, it grieved them exceedingly that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel.
there was come
So I came to Jerusalem, and was there three days.
And I arose in the night, I and some few men with me; neither told I any man what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem: neither was there any beast with me, save the beast that I rode upon.
This pious and noble-minded man attributes every thing to God. If he purposed any good, it was because God put it into his heart; if he did or received any good, it was because the good hand of his God was upon him; if he expected any good, it was because he earnestly prayed God to remember him for good.
And I went out by night by the gate of the valley, even before the dragon well, and to the dung port, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem, which were broken down, and the gates thereof were consumed with fire.
the dung port
This was the gate on the eastern side of the city, through which the filth was carried to the brook Kidron and valley of Hinnom.
Then I went on to the gate of the fountain, and to the king's pool: but there was no place for the beast that was under me to pass.
the gate of the fountain
The gate leading either to the fountain of Siloam, on the east of the city, or to that of Gihon, on the west.
the king's pool
Probably the aqueduct made by Hezekiah to bring the waters of Gihon to the city of David.
Then went I up in the night by the brook, and viewed the wall, and turned back, and entered by the gate of the valley, and so returned.
The brook Kidron.
The gate leading to the valley of Jehoshaphat, east of the city, through which the brook Kidron flows. It was by this gate he went out; so that he went round the whole of the city, and entered by the same gate.
And the rulers knew not whither 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 that did the work.
Then said I unto them, Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach.
Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king's words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.
So they strengthened
But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian, heard it, they laughed us to scorn, and despised us, and said, What is this thing that ye do? will ye rebel against the king?
will ye rebel
Then answered I them, and said unto them, The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem.
ye have no
Exodus 28:29 Leviticus 2:2 24:7 Numbers 10:10 Isaiah 56:5 Zechariah 6:14 Acts 10:4,31 Nehemiah:; and here we find that the people were of one heart with Nehemiah. Our prayers must be seconded with our serious endeavours, or else we mock God. Nearly four months had passed, namely, from Chisleu to Nisan (November to March), before Nehemiah made his application to the king for leave to go to Jerusalem; because:; to the throne of grace we never come unseasonably.