About the Book
Book: Balaam’s Curse
Author: C.L. Smith
Genre: Biblical fiction
Release Date: 2016
Unfathomable evil grips the ancient homeland of the Children of Israel. When Yahweh, Most High God, led his people out of slavery in Egypt to confront it, they failed miserably and spent the next forty years wandering homeless in the desert. Now they are ready to try again. But before they can cross the Jordan River to enter the Promised Land, the prophet Balaam is summoned from Babylon to stop them. Joining forces with supernatural powers, he unleashes a plot so twisted that the name of Balaam is used as a synonym for seductive evil a thousand years later in the Book of Revelation.
Aided by the ruthlessly ambitious Princess Cozbi, the prophet gathers a coalition of five Midianite kings who will stop at nothing to defeat Israel and prevent a crossing that will change the world. Balaam’s Curse, Book One of The Stones of Gilgal, is an epic telling of the resulting deception, revolt, plague, and war. Familiar biblical characters—Moses, Caleb and Joshua—stride through this tale of mayhem and miracles. But this is the coming-of-age story of the next generation, young people nurtured in a simple wilderness life who suddenly find themselves caught in a vortex of violence and upheaval beyond anything they could have imagined.
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About the Author
C.L. Smith, retired junior high school English and history teacher, former missionary, and lifetime student of the Bible, has been captivating audiences around the world for years with the timeless thrill of biblical tales. More than twenty years ago while reading the books of Joshua and Judges, Othniel caught her attention and then his future wife, Acsah. They are only mentioned in a few short verses, but there were a lot of possibilities embedded there. They lived through an exciting era peppered with some other fascinating minor characters of the Bible. The more she thought about them, the more it seemed they were begging her to tell their story. Well, Acsah was. Othniel didn’t say much. He’s pretty quiet. But they convinced her that their impressive and important story had been buried too long among the spectacular events of the time of Joshua. It was about time someone told it. The idea for a biblical novel quickly grew into The Stones of Gilgal series. Balaam’s Curse was published in 2016, A River to Cross in 2017, and Trouble in the Ruins in September, 2019.
More from C.L. Smith
The light of God’s love dispels the darkness obscuring the era of Joshua and the violent conquest of Canaan. Be inspired by this epic series of biblical novels illuminating the murky mists of ancient time with truth applicable to modern life.
The first book of the series plunges the reader into a nightmarish tale of terror instigated by an evil prophet from Babylonia. If you think you remember the story of Balaam and his talking donkey from Sunday School, think again. When God puts words of blessing in the prophet’s mouth, thwarting his attempt to curse Israel, Balaam joins forces with supernatural powers in a scheme so twisted that his name is used as a synonym for seductive evil a thousand years later in the Book of Revelation.
Forming a coalition with five Midianite kings and the ruthlessly ambitious Princess Cozbi, the evil prophet unleashes a deadly plot against the twelve tribes of Israel. He will stop at nothing to prevent them from crossing into the Promised land to claim their inheritance. This is a gripping tale of the seduction, revolt, plague, and war that traps the Children of Israel in the Valley of Acacias east of the Jordan for months. Well-known Biblical heroes—Moses, Caleb and Joshua—stride through its pages, but the story unfolds primarily through the eyes of the next generation, young people born and nurtured in the simple wilderness life of the forty-year Wanderings. Suddenly, on the brink of their new life in the Promised Land, they find themselves in a life or death struggle that tests their strength and batters their faith before they’ve even crossed the river.
The Story Behind the Story
This series of biblical novels began with a new interest in Othniel, the first of the biblical hero-judges. His love story with Acsah and his heroic adventures are summarized in only a few words of scripture, but I saw a lot of possibilities embedded in those brief verses. Digging deeper, I realized that Othniel and Acsah came of age during the turbulent era of Joshua along with a handful of other fascinating minor biblical characters. The more I thought about Othniel, Acsah, and friends, the more I was convinced that their impressive and important story had been buried too long among the spectacular events of the time of Joshua and it was about time someone told it. The result is the six-part Stones of Gilgal saga showing how the obstacles overcome in their youth shape each character for their ultimate roles in the story of the settlement of Canaan. The series ends with Othniel rising to save Israel from an oppressive enemy as the first and most noble of the hero-judges.
The Dark Side
The Stones of Gilgal saga includes several “tales of terror,” dark episodes standing in juxtaposition to some of the Bible’s most dazzling miracles. I see these stories as dark and light puzzle pieces, making sense only when viewed within the framework of the Great Cosmic War. Whether read as ancient history or truth-teaching myth, these incidents are chapters in the epic story of the entire Bible, a good God working to save humanity from the forces of evil.
Six of my characters are minor but real characters found in scripture who lived during the era of Joshua, experiencing the transition from the Wilderness Wanderings to the Promised Land. They all crossed the Jordan, witnessed the fall of Jericho and the sun standing still at a word from Joshua—life-changing events that prepared them for leadership roles in the book of Judges.
- Othniel, who becomes the first hero-Judge of Israel
- Acsah, only daughter of the heroic Caleb
- Phinehas, grandson of Aaron, future high priest
- Jonathan, grandson of Moses whose story appears in Judges 17-18
- Salmon, prince of the tribe of Judah, who appears only in genealogies as the husband of Rahab
- Rahab, the courageous Canaanite harlot not only saved by faith but honored with a place in the lineage of King David and Jesus Christ.
- Plus Abihail, fictionalized daughter-in-law of the biblical Achan
Thus far this has been an incredible year for Biblical fiction! Tessa Afshar’s “Daughter of Rome”, Connilyn Cossette’s “Like Flames in the Night”, Brennan McPherson’s “Babel” (2019, but I read it this year) and “Eden”, and now “Balaam’s Curse” by C.L. Smith. It is a blessing to see more and more Christian authors approaching Biblical fiction without compromising God’s Word. When done well, it encourages the reader and reinforces or perhaps even introduces the Biblical text, inspiring deeper study of the Word. Such was the case for me with “Balaam’s Curse.”
This year I am following a YouVersion Bible reading plan that consists of daily readings from both the Old and New Testaments, and therefore the foundation of this novel is one that I’ve recently read, making my reading experience all the more enjoyable. One technique that I recognized Smith employing early on is referencing other Bible stories that would already have occurred prior to the setting of Balaam’s and thereby demonstrating that the ancient Israelites were aware of previous Biblical history. Similarly, the fact that Moses is recording the Israelites’ journey out of Egypt and through the wilderness further displays the accuracy and eternal longevity of God’s Word.
Told through multiple viewpoints, “Balaam’s Curse” chronicles a fictionalized account of the prophet Balaam, whose story appears in the Bible in Numbers 22. In Smith’s fictional account, Balaam has spoken blessing over the Israelites rather than cursing them, and now he pledges himself to Baal in order to get rid of God’s people so that they cannot enter the Promised Land. Othniel, Acsah, and Rahab all have parts in this saga, as do more familiar characters such as Moses, Caleb, and Joshua, offering readers a panoptic view of this seminal point in the history of God’s people. Ephesians 6:12 encompasses the overall theme of this novel, and it repeatedly came to mind as I read: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” As such, while there are certainly some disconcerting scenes in this book, it is important to remember that other gods such as Baal are false gods and are not real, but the evil of our true enemy, the devil, is very real. Despite the power struggles between good and evil in this story and in our lives today, we need to remember that God is good and that He will always prevail; our victory is already secure in Christ’s sacrifice for us.
A few details that I appreciated and would like to call attention to are the simple map at the beginning of the book, which really helps readers to visualize where the events are occurring, and “The Family of Nations descended from Terah” family tree and List of Characters found at the end of the story. These resources are a great help in understanding the story and in making further Biblical connections. Nevertheless, “Balaam’s Curse” is highly readable and, while containing supernatural elements that may be disturbing to more sensitive readers, is an excellent work of Biblical fiction that explores the transition time between Israel’s 40-year wilderness wandering and their entry into the Promised Land.
I received a complimentary copy of this book through Celebrate Lit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.
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