Written across two testaments by two writers, the resurrections in 1 Kings 17:17-24 and Luke 7:11-17 share similarities in their accounts of two widows, two sons, and one powerful God.
In the Old Testament account of 1 Kings 17:17-24, the prophet Elijah knew the widow and her son well. The widow of Zarephath and her son experienced God’s miracle of provision in their destitute situation (1 Kings 17:7-16). As a recipient of the widow’s hospitality, Elijah stayed in their upper room during much of the drought. In Luke 7:11-17, Jesus came upon a procession with a widow, her dead son, and a large crowd from the town of Nain. Although a seemingly random encounter, Luke records Jesus’ response to the widow as “his heart went out to her” (Luke 7:13). Each widows’ heartache and poverty would have been obvious in her community. In their cultures, the fatherless son was designated as his widowed mother’s caretaker, with the expectation that he would work and provide for her.
As a prophet, Elijah had a reputation for speaking God’s Word and being an instrument for God’s miracles. When the widow of Zarephath’s only beloved son died, Elijah grabbed the body. He ran up to his room, laid the child on his bed, and cried out to God in prayer. In contrast, the Luke account begins as Jesus walks through Galilee with his entourage of disciples and a large crowd. Luke 6 describes how Jesus chose his disciples, healed people of diseases, and preached to the crowds. Until then, in all of His miracles, Jesus had never yet resurrected anyone from the dead.
The settings may vary, but similarities exist across these accounts. Elijah prayed and God resurrected the widow’s son. Jesus, in full kingdom authority, resurrected the deceased man, speaking words of life. “Young man, I say to you, get up!” Both sons came back to life. Elijah witnessed God’s miracle of resurrection, whereas Jesus Himself performed the miracle. Elijah and Jesus each presented the resurrected sons to their widowed mothers.
Both miracles demonstrated God’s power over death. A grieving and questioning Elijah experienced God’s compassionate miracle for the widow of Zarephath after her son died. In the town of Nain, a large local crowd, twelve disciples, and the crowd following Jesus through Galilee witnessed Jesus’ miracle of resurrection. Although both towns are mentioned in these resurrection accounts, neither the widows nor their sons are mentioned by name.
Where is the follow-up information? I want to hear about those unnamed sons: one young boy and one young man. Their resurrected lives shone as enduring reminders of God’s resurrection power. Did the young boy grow up and become a baker in Zarephath who told his story to all of his customers? Were people compelled to turn from Baal to God as they witnessed God’s compassion and miraculous life-giving power?
Did the widow in Nain recount God’s miracles of provision through the resurrection of her grown son? Jesus’ first miracle of resurrection demonstrated His compassion for the widows and fatherless, while undeniably demonstrating Messiah’s authority. Did the Nain community later recognize that the resurrection of the widow’s son foreshadowed the Messiah Jesus’ resurrection?
God intervened with His compassion and almighty power for the unnamed widows in 1 Kings 17 and Luke 7. These two widows experienced the omnipotent power of God, as He miraculously raised their respective sons from the dead.