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 unto the king. Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence.
Nisan — Four months after he had heard those sad tidings. The reason of this long delay might be either that his turn of attending upon the king did not come 'till that time: or that 'till then he wanted a fit opportunity to move it to him.
 Wherefore the king said unto me, Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart. Then I was very sore afraid,
Sad — His fasting joined with inward grief had made a sensible change in his countenance.
Afraid — It was an unusual and ungrateful thing to come into the king of Persia's presence with any token of sorrow. And he feared a disappointment, because his request was great and invidious, and odious to most of the Persian courtiers.
 And said unto the king, Let the king live for ever: why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?
Why should, … — All the grievances of the church, but especially its desolations, ought to be matter of grief to all good people, to all that have a concern for God's honour, and are of a public spirit.
 Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven.
Let, … — My sadness comes not from any disaffection to the king, for whom my hearty prayers are that he may live for ever; but from another cause.
Sepulchres — Which by all nations are esteemed sacred and inviolable. He saith not a word of the temple as he spake before a Heathen king who cared for none of these things.
I prayed — To direct my thoughts and words, and to incline the king's heart to grant my request.
 And the king said unto me, (the queen also sitting by him,) For how long shall thy journey be? and when wilt thou return? So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time.
The queen — Which is here noted, as an unusual thing; for commonly the kings of Persia dined alone, and perhaps because the queen expressed some kindness to him, and promoted his request.
How long — This question shewed the king's affection to him, and that he was not willing to want his attendance longer than was necessary.
A time — He built the walls in fifty two days, chap. 6:15, and probably not long after returned to the king, by whom he was sent a second time with a more ample commission.
 And a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king's forest, 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 into. And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me.
King's forest — Of the forest of Lebanon, famous for choice trees.
Palace — Of the king's palace, which was adjoining to the house of God.
Enter — That I shall build to dwell in while I am there.
 When Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, heard of it, it grieved them exceedingly that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel.
Horonite — So called either, from the place of his birth or rule, which is supposed to be Horonaim, an eminent city of Moab.
The servant — So called probably from the condition from which he was advanced to his present power and dignity: which also may be mentioned as one reason why he now carried himself so insolently, it being usual for persons suddenly raised from a low state, so to demean themselves.
 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 at Jerusalem: neither was there any beast with me, save the beast that I rode upon.
Night — Concealing both his intentions as long as he could, knowing that the life of his business lay in secrecy and expedition.
Beast — To prevent noise.
 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 the gates thereof were consumed with fire.
I went — The footmen who accompanied him directing and leading him in the way. His design was to go round the city, to observe the compass and condition of the walls and gates, that he might make sufficient provisions for the work.
 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.
No place — The way being obstructed with heaps of rubbish.
 And the rulers knew not whither I went, or what I did; 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 that did the work.
That did — Or, were to do, whom he intended to employ in it.
 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 unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.
Rise up — Let us do it with vigour, and diligence, and resolution, as those that are determined to go through with it.
Their hands — Their own and one anothers.
 Then answered I them, and said unto them, The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem.
No portion — You have no authority over us, nor interest in our church and state, but are aliens from the common-wealth of Israel.
Memorial — No testimony, or monument, either of your relation to us by birth or religion, or of your kindness to us, or to this place.