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
that they may afford me safe-conduct until 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.