1 And it came to pass in the month Nisan (the 1st month. This was 4 months after receiving the news), in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes (= the great king. An appellative [like Pharaoh, Czar, , &c.] used of several kings of Persia. Synonymous with Artachshast [Arta = great, and Kshatza = king, preserved in the modern "Shah"]. This Artaxerxes was the great Astyages [of Herodotus], and Arsames [of Darius Hystaspis' Inscription], the husband of Esther, and father of Cyrus. He was also the Ahasuerus of Est. 1:1, which means "venerable king"; and he was also the "Darius the Mede" of Ezra 6:14 and Dan. 5:31) the king, that wine was before him: and I took up the wine, and gave it to the king. Now I had not been before-time sad in his presence.
2 Wherefore the king said to me, "Why is your countenance sad, seeing you are not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart". (see Prov. 15:13) Then I was very sore afraid,
3 And said to the king, "Let the king live (the usual Oriental salutation) for ever: why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' sepulchers, lies waste (cp. 1:3. Impossible if Ezra with his 42,360 returned exiles were already there, and had rebuilt the temple! See Ezra 4:12), and the gates thereof 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.
L N n 5,6. Desolations. Repeated to king and Queen. o 7,8. Letters requested. p 9. The governors beyond the river.
5 And I said to the king, "If it please the king, and if your servant have found favor in your sight, that you would send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers' sepulchers, that I may build it."
6 And the king said to me, (the queen (= wife. Occ. only here and in Ps. 45:9. Dan. 5:2,3,23. Not a Heb. word, but borrowed from the Akkadian Sha = a bride, and gal = great. Used of a foreign queen. Here it would exactly suit "the great bride" or "foreign queen", Esther. Esther is introduced her [parenthetically] because of her sympathy and interest, which Nehemiah so greatly needed at this juncture, as Mordecai had needed it before [Est. 4:14]) also sitting (not reclining) close to 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 please the king, let letters be given me to the pashas beyond the river, that they may convey me over till I come into Judah;
8 And a letter to Asaph the keeper of the king's park (a Persian word which occurs here, Ecc. 2:5, and Song 4:13, where it is rendered "orchards". Sept renders it "paradise", 28 time: [9 times = Eden, 19 times = garden]), that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, and for the walls of the city (these walls are the main subject of Nehemiah's section of the joint book), and for the house that I shall enter into." And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me. (God's purpose [Acts 4:28,30]; power [1 Chron. 29:16]; sovernty [Ps. 31:15]; providence [1 Chron. 29:16]; supply [Ps. 104:28]; prosperity [Neh. 2:8]; security [John 10:28,29])
9 Then I came to the governors beyond the river, and gave them the king's letters. Now the king had sent princes of the force and horsemen with me.
10 When Sanballat (An Aramaic papyrus, recently  discovered at Elephantine [in Egypt], was written by 2 Jews [Delaya and Shelemya] to the sons of this Sanballat, who is called the "governor of Samaria". It is dated the 17th year of Darius Nothos [son of Darius Hystaspis]. [Nothos = Greek "bastard"]. Here ends the 4th of the 10 Sedarim [or Cycles for public reading] which commenced with Ezra 8:35; thus showing these 2 books are to be regarded as one.) the Horonite (not of Beth-horon [Josh 10:10] but as an alien [13:27,28] of Horonaim, a Moabite. Cp. Isa. 15:5. Jer. 48:3,5,34. See the Moabite Stone 2 Kings 1:1), and Tobiah the servant (probably a freed slave. Also an alien), the Ammonite, heard of it (Nehemiah had come through Samaria), it grieved them (this is the 1st of 6 forms which the opposition took. Note them, and observe how Nehemiah met each respectively:  Grief [2:110];  laughter [2:19];  wrath and indignation [4:1-3];  fighting [4:7,8];  subtlety [6:1,2];  compromise [6:5,7]) exceedingly that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the sons of Israel. (Again used of Judah. See Ezra 2:2 and 1 Kings 12:17)
11 So I came to Jerusalem, and was there three days.
12 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 for Jerusalem: neither was there any beast with me, save the beast that I rode upon.
13 And I went out by night (could Nehemiah have gone thus secretly if Ezra had 42,360 Jews there? And what need for it? Nehemiah only had a few men, and was in the midst of the enemies) by the gate (note the 12 gates [corresponding with the 12 gates of Rev. 21:21]) of the valley, even before the dragon well, and to the dung gate, and kept peering into the walls of Jerusalem, how they were broken down, and the gates thereof 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 went I up in the night by the brook (a torrent, mostly fed by rains, not a constant river), and viewed the wall, and turned back, and entered by the gate of the valley, and so returned.
16 And the rulers (used of the Babylonian magistrates or prefects; occ. only in Ezra and Nehemiah) knew not where I went, or what I was doing; 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 (i.e. of those who had accompanied Nehemiah) that did the work.
17 Then said I to them, "You see the distress (how so, if the Temple was already built?) that we are in, how Jerusalem lies 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."
18 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 to me. And they said, "Let us rise up and build." So they strengthened their hands for this good work. (This work was "good" because it was "prepared" by God. See Eph. 2:10)
19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem (called Gashmu [6:6], an Arab Sheik. Like the other 2, an alien. In Ps. 83:6, all 3 nationalities associated as the enemies of Israel) the Arabian (descendants of Hagar. Hence Hagarenes), heard it, they laughed us to scorn (the 2nd form of opposition), and despised us, and said, "What is this thing that you do? will you rebel against the king?"
20 Then answered I 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, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem."