Artaxerxes, understanding the cause of Nehemiah's sadness, sends him with letters and commission to Jerusalem, 1-8. Nehemiah, to the grief of the enemies, comes to Jerusalem, 9-11. He views secretly the ruins of the walls, 12-16. He incites the Jews to build, 17-20.
1 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 to the king. Now I had not before been sad in his presence. 2 Therefore, the king said to me, "Why is your countenance sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sorrow of heart." Then I was very greatly afraid, 3 And said to the king, "Let the king live forever. Why should my countenance not be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' sepulchers, lies waste and its gates are consumed with fire?" 4 Then the king said to me, "For what do you make request?" So I prayed to the God of heaven. 5 And I said to the king, "If it should please the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you would send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers' sepulchers, so that I may build it." 6 And the king said to me (the queen also sitting by him), "For how long shall your journey be? And when will you return?" So it pleased the king to send me, and I set him a time. 7 Moreover, I said to the king, "If it should please the king, let letters be given to me for the governors beyond the river, so that they may convey me over until I come into Judah, 8 And a letter to Asaph the keeper of the king's forest, so 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." And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me.
9 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. 10 When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant heard of it, it grieved them exceedingly that there had come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel.
11 So I came to Jerusalem and was there three days. 12 And I arose in the night—I and a few men with me—neither did I tell any man what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem, neither was there any beast with me, except the beast that I rode upon. 13 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 their gates were consumed with fire. 14 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. 15 Then I went up in the night by the brook, viewed the wall, turned back, and entered by the gate of the valley, and so returned. 16 And the rulers did not know where I went, or what I did, neither had I as yet told it to the Jews, to the priests, to the nobles, to the rulers, nor to the rest who did the work.
17 Then I said to them, "You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste and its gates are burned with fire. Come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, so that we may no more be a reproach." 18 Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me and of the king's words that he had spoken to me. And they said, "Let us rise and build." So they strengthened their hands for this good work. 19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite servant, and Geshem the Arabian heard it, they laughed us to scorn and despised us, and said, "What is this thing that you do? Will you rebel against the king?" 20 Then I answered them, and said to them, "The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore, we his servants will arise and build. But you have no portion, right, nor memorial in Jerusalem."
Matthew Henry Commentary - Nehemiah, Chapter 2[➚]