Elijah, Elisha, Jesus, and Raising the Dead

In the Old Testament, there were three occasions when people died and were brought back to life. In 1 Kings 17:17-24, Elijah raised a widow’s son. In 2 Kings 4:18-37, Elisha raised the Shunammite’s son. And in 2 Kings 13:21, a dead man revived when his body was thrown into a grave with Elisha’s bones.

In the New Testament, Jesus raised a ruler’s daughter (Matt 9:23-25), a widow’s son (Luke 7:11-17), and Lazarus (John 11:38-44).

So far, if you’re keeping score, physical resurrections in the Old and New Testaments pan out like this:

  • Elijah, 1 person
  • Elisha, 2 people
  • Jesus, 3 people

The power of Jesus’ ministry surpasses the greatness of Elijah and Elisha. Like Elijah, Jesus raised a widow’s son (1 Kings 17; Luke 7), but the number of people raised by Jesus was greater than the number by Elijah. Jesus also raised more people than Elisha did. Furthermore, like Elisha, resurrection was associated with Jesus’ death, but in a greater scope. When a dead man was thrown into a grave and touched Elisha’s bones, that one body revived (2 Kings 13). But when Jesus died, “The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised” (Matt 27:52).

3 thoughts on “Elijah, Elisha, Jesus, and Raising the Dead

  1. Great insight! Never thought of it that way.

    Connected question. How do we square these raisings (and, we presume, eventual second deaths) with “It is appointed unto man ONCE to die?” I believe both things, but how would you articulate the reconciliation?

  2. Hmm, interesting question. The writer in Heb 9:27-28 is wanting to establish that Christ only needed to die once for sin in 9:28, so he draws an analogy in 9:27 to the principle that people die once and await the judgment. So I think he’s appealing to typical human experience. Then in 11:35 he mentions that “Women received back their dead by resurrection,” which probably refers to the three resurrections in the ministries of Elijah and Elisha that I wrote about in the post above. The author, therefore, speaks of people dying once (9:27) as well as people who came back from the dead (11:35). This leads me to conclude that in 9:27, he’s drawing an analogy from what is the typical human experience, and this analogy supports his greater argument that Christ came to die once, and never again.

    • Well said. I never connected it with the near context in chapter 11. Great point!

      Another thing I appreciate about articulating it this way is that it still refutes reincarnation.


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