While serving wine to King Artaxerxes, Nehemiah looks sad, which he never does.
Artaxerxes notices the sad face and asks what's wrong, and Nehemiah explains that his people's city is currently a wasteland.
Artaxerxes asks Nehemiah what it is he wants to request from him.
So after a quick prayer to God, Nehemiah asks Artaxerxes if he can return to his homeland of Judah and help rebuild the city.
The king asks how long he'll be gone and when he'll return, and they set a date.
He also grants Nehemiah's request to send letters to the provincial governors granting him safe passage, and to tell Asaph, the guy who oversees the King's forest, to give him the wood he needs to do the rebuilding and to build himself a house as well.
So far so good.
Nehemiah sets out, using the letters the king gave him, escorted by cavalry and army officers.
But two of Israel's enemies, Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite, are not happy that Nehemiah is coming to help the Israelites.
Nehemiah stays in Jerusalem for three days before stealthily heading out with a few men to inspect the city's walls.
He does all this in strict secrecy, not telling the Jews, nobles, officials, or priests what he's doing.
Nehemiah then addresses everyone, urging them to rebuild the wall, and explaining how God and the King have both been gracious to him.
Everyone says, "Let's do it."
Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem accuse them of being rebellious toward the king by doing this.
They mock and ridicule them.
Nehemiah tells these enemies that God will have mercy on Israel, and that the enemies have no historic claim to Jerusalem so they should just shut up.