Bodily Resurrections in the Old Testament
As we look at these Old and New Testament accounts, we see that Jesus’s ministry was greater than that of Elijah and Elisha. Neither Elijah nor Elisha claimed to be the source of such power and life. They were prophets whom the Lord used in miraculous ways. What makes Jesus’s ministry different is a claim like John 11:25: “I am the resurrection and the life.” Never spoke a man like this before.
There are three stories in the Old Testament in which people rise bodily from the dead. To be clear, these bodies are not raised to a glorified and immortal state, but these individuals nevertheless return to earthly life.
These three stories occur in the ministries of Elijah and Elisha. The relevant passages are 1 Kings 17, 2 Kings 4, and 2 Kings 13. Let’s think about each one.
First, in 1 Kings 17, Elijah raised a widow’s son. Elijah “stretched himself upon the child three times and cried to the LORD, ‘O LORD my God, let this child’s life come into him again’” (1 Kings 17:21). The child’s life returned (17:22). Then Elijah brought the child down to the mother and delivered him to her (17:23).
Second, in 2 Kings 4, Elisha raised the son of a Shunammite woman. Elisha, like Elijah, stretched himself upon the child (2 Kings 4:34). The child’s life returned (4:34–35).
Third, in 2 Kings 13, Elisha’s bones resulted in the resurrection of a body. Elisha himself had died, but when a dead body landed on the area where Elisha had been buried, the thrown body “revived and stood on his feet” (2 Kings 13:21).
These three stories (in 1 Kings 17, 2 Kings 4, and 2 Kings 13) are the only Old Testament accounts of the dead coming back to life. One resurrection is associated with Elijah and two with Elisha.
How many resurrection accounts do the Gospels associate with Jesus before the cross? Not one, not two, but three.
First, in Mark 5, Jesus raised a young girl. He went to her home, took her by the hand, and said, “Little girl, I say to you, arise,” and the girl sat up (Mark 5:41).