Nehemiah 2

Nehemiah Is Permitted to Go to Jerusalem

1Then in the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought to me,
The translation reads with the LXX וְיַיִן לְפָנַי (veyayin lefanay, “and wine before me”) rather than יַיִן לְפָנָיו (yayin lefanayv, “wine before him”) of the MT. The initial vav (ו) on original וְיַיִן probably dropped out due to haplograpy or orthographic confusion with the two yods (י) which follow. The final vav on לְפָנָיו in the MT was probably added due to dittography with the vav on the immediately following word.
I took the wine and gave it to the king. Previously
The translation reads לְפָנֵים (lefanim, “formerly”) rather than לְפָנָיו (lefanayv, “to his face”) of the MT. The MT seems to suggest that Nehemiah was not sad before the king, which is contrary to what follows.
I had not been depressed
Or “showed him a sullen face.” See HALOT 1251 s.v. רַע, רָע 9.
in the king’s presence.
This expression is either to be inferred from the context, or perhaps one should read לְפָנָיו (lefanayv, “before him”; cf. the MT) in addition to לְפָנִים (lefanim, “formerly”). See preceding note on the word “previously.”
2So the king said to me, “Why do you appear to be depressed when you aren’t sick? What can this be other than sadness of heart?” This made me very fearful.

3 I replied to the king, “O king, live forever! Why would I not appear dejected when the city with the graves of my ancestors
Heb “fathers” (also in v. 5).
lies desolate and its gates destroyed
Heb “devoured” or “eaten” (so also in Neh 2:13).
by fire?”
4The king responded,
Heb “said to me.”
“What is it you are seeking?” Then I quickly prayed to the God of heaven
5and said to the king, “If the king is so inclined
Heb “If upon the king it is good.” So also in v. 7.
and if your servant has found favor in your sight, dispatch me to Judah, to the city with the graves of my ancestors, so that I can rebuild it.”
6Then the king, with his consort
Or “queen,” so most English versions (cf. HALOT 1415 s.v. שֵׁגַל); TEV “empress.”
sitting beside him, replied, “How long would your trip take, and when would you return?” Since the king was amenable to dispatching me,
Heb “It was good before the king and he sent me.”
I gave him a time.
7I said to the king, “If the king is so inclined, let him give me letters for the governors of Trans-Euphrates
Heb “across the river,” here and often elsewhere in the Book of Nehemiah.
that will enable me to travel safely until I reach Judah,
8and a letter for Asaph the keeper of the king’s nature preserve,
Or “forest.” So HALOT 963 s.v. פַּרְדֵּס 2.
so that he will give me timber for beams for the gates of the fortress adjacent to the temple and for the city wall
One medieval Hebrew MS, the Syriac Peshitta, Vulgate, and the Arabic read here the plural וּלְחוֹמוֹת (ulekhomot, “walls”) against the singular וּלְחוֹמַת (ulekhomat) in the MT. The plural holem vav (וֹ) might have dropped out due to dittography or the plural form might have been written defectively.
and for the house to which I go.” So the king granted me these requests,
The Hebrew text does not include the expression “these requests,” but it is implied.
for the good hand of my God was on me.
9Then I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, and I presented to them the letters from the king. The king had sent with me officers of the army and horsemen. 10When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official
Heb “servant” (so KJV, ASV; NAB “slave”; NCV “officer.” This phrase also occurs in v. 19.
heard all this, they were very displeased that someone had come to seek benefit for the Israelites.

Nehemiah Arrives in Jerusalem

11 So I came to Jerusalem. When I had been there for three days, 12I got up during the night, along with a few men who were with me. But I did not tell anyone what my God was putting on my heart to do for Jerusalem. There were no animals with me, except for the one
Heb “the animal.”
I was riding.
13I proceeded through the Valley Gate by night, in the direction of the Well of the Dragons
Or “Well of the Serpents”; or “Well of the Jackals” (cf. ASV, NIV, NLT).
and the Dung Gate,
Or “Rubbish Gate” (so TEV); NASB “Refuse Gate”; NCV “Trash Gate”; CEV “Garbage Gate.”
For the MT reading שֹׂבֵר (sover, “inspecting”) the LXX erroneously has שֹׁבֵר (shover, “breaking”). However, further destruction of Jerusalem’s walls was obviously not a part of Nehemiah’s purpose.
the walls of Jerusalem that had been breached and its gates that had been destroyed by fire.
14I passed on to the Gate of the Well and the King’s Pool, where there was not enough room for my animal to pass with me. 15I continued up the valley during the night, inspecting the wall. Then I turned back and came to the Valley Gate, and so returned. 16The officials did not know where I had gone or what I had been doing, for up to this point I had not told any of the Jews or the priests or the nobles or the officials or the rest of the workers. 17Then I said to them, “You see the problem that we have: Jerusalem is desolate and its gates are burned. Come on! Let’s rebuild the wall of Jerusalem so that this reproach will not continue.” 18Then I related to them how the good hand of my God was on me and what
Heb “the words of the king which he had spoken to me.”
the king had said to me. Then they replied, “Let’s begin rebuilding right away!”
Heb “Arise! Let us rebuild!”
So they readied themselves
Heb “strengthened their hands.”
for this good project.
19But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard all this,
The Hebrew text does not include the words “all this,” but they have been added in the translation for clarity.
they derided us and expressed contempt toward us. They said, “What is this you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?”
20I responded to them by saying, “The God of heaven will prosper us. We his servants will start the rebuilding.
Heb “will arise and build.” The idiom “arise and…” means to begin the action described by the second verb.
But you have no just or ancient right in Jerusalem.”
Heb “portion or right or remembrance.” The expression is probably a hendiatris: The first two nouns retain their full nominal function, while the third noun functions adjectivally (“right or remembrance” = “ancient right”).

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