The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The Second Book of Esdras or the Book of Nehemias
It was the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of king Artaxerxes’ reign. The king sat at his wine, and as I took it up to hand it to him, I stood there sad of mien in the royal presence.✻
Why, what mean these pale looks? he asked. Ill I know thou art not; this can be nothing else than some sorrow gnawing at thy heart. At this, I was in an extreme of fear;
and, wishing the king long life, I answered, Little wonder if my looks are sad, when the city where my father lies buried is but a wilderness, and its gates blackened with fire.
What wouldst thou have of me? the king asked. And I, first praying to the God of heaven,
made answer thus, Did I but stand so high in the royal favour, my request would be that thou wouldst send me to Judaea, to this city where my father lies buried, and give me leave to rebuild it.
No question had the king to ask, or his consort that was there beside him, but how long my journey would last? When did I think to return? So the king was content to let me go, and it was for me to name the time of my absence.
Then I said, May it please the king’s grace to entrust me with letters for the governors of the country beyond Euphrates, bidding them see me safe on my way to Judaea;
a letter, moreover, to Asaph, the ranger of the royal forest, bidding him supply me with timber for coping the gates of the temple palace and the city walls, and roofing my own house besides. All this, by God’s favour, the king granted me.
So I made my way to the governors beyond Euphrates, with royal letters to give them, and a royal escort of captains and horsemen.
Sick and sorry men were Sanaballat the Horonite, and Tobias the Slave, one of the breed of Ammon, to hear of any visitor that had Israel’s welfare at heart.
Then I went on to Jerusalem, and waited three days before telling anyone what purpose God had put into my heart, to bring me there.
When I stirred abroad, it was at dead of night, with only a few men to attend me, and none mounted but myself.
At dead of night, I went out by the Valley Gate, past the Dragon’s Well, and on to the Scavengers’ Gate, and all the way I found the wall of Jerusalem lying in ruins, and its gates blackened with fire.
The next gate I came to was that of the Well, and beyond that was the royal aqueduct; here the beast I was mounted on could find no way to pass.
So, at midnight, I passed along the ravine and examined the wall, returning home again by the Valley Gate;
none of the rulers knew whither I had gone, or on what errand; I had not opened my mind yet to the Jewish folk, priest or noble or ruler or any other whom the task concerned.
But now I called upon them to witness the sore strait we had been brought to, Jerusalem a wilderness, the gates blackened with fire; Come, I said, let us build Jerusalem walls, and endure contempt no longer!
Then I told them what favour God had shewn me, what speech I had had with the king’s grace; Up, I cried, to the task! And with the good news, courage came back to them.
When word came to Sanaballat the Horonite, and Tobias the Slave, that was of Ammon’s breed, and Gosem the Arabian, all was mockery and disdain; Here are fine doings! they said. Are you for rebelling against the king’s majesty?
But I had my answer ready for them: The Master we serve is the God of heaven; he will be our helper. Leave us to set about our task of building; for you there is no right of possession, no privilege, no citizenship here at Jerusalem.✻
The Holy Bible