Bible: Satan sent down fire when Elijah prayed, not God – Nigerian cleric

A Nigerian cleric, Abel Damina, has stirred controversy by claiming that it was Satan, not God, who sent down fire when Prophet Elijah, a Biblical figure, prayed for fire during a contest between him (Elijah) and the priests of Baal.

The Biblical story

The Biblical story, as told in 1 Kings 18:1 – 18, narrates a spiritual contest between Elijah, whom the Bible portrays as a prophet of God and another set of prophets – the prophets of Baal, portrayed as false priests.

Here is a simplified version of the story as presented by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

“The kingdom of Israel continued to suffer from having no water. King Ahab told the people to follow a false god named Baal.

“The Lord sent Elijah, the prophet, to meet Ahab. Elijah invited all the people to the top of a mountain. He invited the king and his priests to a challenge to see whether the Lord or Baal was the true God.

“Elijah explained the challenge. He and the priests would sacrifice a bull on an altar, but they, would not light a fire themselves. Instead, the priests would pray to Baal to start a fire. Then Elijah would pray to the Lord to start a fire. Elijah knew that only the true God would start the fire.

“The priests of Baal prayed to their god from morning until noon, but nothing happened. Elijah joked with them and said their god Baal must be asleep.

“The priests grew angry, jumped on the altar, and shouted into the evening. They hoped their god would answer, but there was still no fire.

“Then it was Elijah’s turn. He built an altar to the Lord, dug a trench around the altar, and prepared the sacrifice.

“Elijah asked the people to fill four barrels of water and pour them onto the wood of his altar three times. Water soaked the wood and the altar. It filled the whole trench.

“Elijah prayed to the Lord to show the true God’s power. The Lord’s fire came down and consumed the sacrifice, wood, stones, and water. The people knew that Elijah’s God was the true God. Elijah prayed that the drought would end, and the Lord sent rain.”

Christians have known this Elijah story for generations, viewing it as proof of God’s power.

But Mr Damina, who is the founder of Power City International in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, said Jesus Christ would have shut Elijah up if he (Jesus Christ) was there when Elijah made the statement, adding that the fire in the Biblical story was from Satan, and not God.

In two different clips which addressed the same issue, Mr Damina, citing Luke 9:51, said it was Satan that sent down fire when Prophet Elijah prayed. He explained that Jesus Christ rebuked his disciples from emulating Elijah.

“If I be a man of God let fire, if Jesus (Christ) was there, he would have said stop that,” Mr Damina exclaimed, according to a video clip of the remark posted on the internet.

“Jesus would’ve told him (Prophet Elijah) (to) stop that. Shut up! Go and sit down, if you don’t know what to do. Jesus (Christ) would’ve rebuked Elijah. If he rebuked the disciples that wanted to copy Elijah. It means if he was there, he would have rebuked Elijah.

“That means it was not Jesus that answered Elijah’s prayer, it was Satan,” he said amidst cheers from the congregants.

Explaining further, Mr Damina said these are not the “days of Elijah” but that of the “manifestation of the sons of God”.

“It devilish,” he said.

Mr Damina told the congregants, “All those wicked books you bought, go and burn them this afternoon. Bring them out, pour fuel, I licence you (to) burn it to ashes; those books are demonic.”

It is unclear the exact books Mr Damina was urging the congregants to burn, but he may have referred to any book that supports the claim that it was God who sent down fire when Elijah prayed.

Mr Damina is not new to controversies, but the latest one has triggered mixed reactions from other pastors in Akwa Ibom, with some accusing him of heresies.

The state’s five million population is predominantly Christian.

Nyenime Andy, a pastor and founder of Holy Ghost Ambassador, Uyo, disagrees with Mr Damina’s position on who, between God and Satan, sent down fire when Elijah prayed.

“Attention, the Christian Community. Satan did not send down fire, but God did,” he said in a Facebook post, citing 1 Kings 18:22-39.

“Please read it carefully and thoroughly. But for the purpose of clarity, let me pick two verses of this scripture,” he said with emphasis on verse 38.

A Bible scholar and Bishop of the African Church in Akwa Ibom State, Ime Brownson, agrees with Mr Andy that it was God that sent down fire in response to Elijah’s prayers.

But Idy James, a pastor at Salt of the Earth Ministry, Uyo, agrees with Mr Damina.

Mr James, in a Facebook post, presented his argument in support of Mr Damina’s controversial remarks.

“That you are ignorant of a particular subject should not be blamed on another who has refused to remain in your position. It is a choice,” he said in the post.

Speaking to PREMIUM TIMES on Wednesday, Mr James said the cleric, Mr Damina, would have been a celebrated figure if he was not from “this part of the world”.

He supported Mr Damina’s teachings, including the warning against paying tithes to pastors and the one about Noah not being asked by God to build an ark..

Not new to controversy

Mr Damina has made many controversial remarks in the past. In 2017, he preached against Christians donating money to churches and expecting God to flourish them with riches in return.

He remarked that God did not tell Noah to build an ark but that Noah built an ark to communicate what God revealed to him.

PREMIUM TIMES in 2019 reported how Mr Damina blamed the church for the increase in suicide rates in Nigeria.

Reacting to the suicide of a 400-level student of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in Enugu State, Chukwuemeka Akachi, who drank a deadly insecticide, Mr Damina said sermons in Nigerian churches were instilling greed and depression among Christians.

He said in 2022 that there was no fairness in politics and that elections were essentially about the “stealing of votes”, and added that men of God have no business prophesying to politicians because “God is not involved in politics”.