In 1863 Brown was commissioned by the Brothers Dalziel to produce three illustrations for a Bible to which many other famous artists of the day were also contributing. This story of a mother whose son is raised from the dead by the prophet Elijah was one of the subjects selected by Brown from a list of possible themes submitted to him by the Brothers.
Having designed the illustration 'Elijah and the Widow's Son' Brown worked up the composition into three paintings. The dealer Gambart bought a small watercolour version, which he later sold to Frederick Leyland (present owner unknown). Frederick Craven of Manchester, a watercolour collector, commissioned a larger version in 1868 (V&A). The painting in the Birmingham collection is the only one in oil and was commissioned in 1864 by a Brighton wine merchant, James Trist, for 100gns. Trist was so pleased with it that he later sent Brown a case of wine.