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<< Return to SBL Forum Archive The Psalms of David (Koresh): A Study into the Afterlife of a Biblical Text

Ever since the catastrophic fire of April 1993, in Waco, Texas, a good dealof work on the Branch Davidian movement has been conducted. However, almost allof this has been from a social-scientific perspective or else directed at thecause of the fire and the respective responsibilities of the ATF, the FBI andthe Branch Davidians themselves in bringing it about. Thus notwithstanding thesubstantial number of high-quality publications relating to Waco that are now inprint, the truth is that we know only slightly more now than we did at the timeregarding the beliefs of the Branch Davidians and the way in which those beliefsmight have been both reflected in and influenced by the events of the siege.Glaring in this respect is the fact that despite the undoubted centrality of theBible to the understanding of the world which the Branch Davidians constructed,only very limited work has to date been carried out in an effort to understandhow the text functioned in this particular apocalyptically informed context.This neglect on the part of the academic community is not helpful, for iffurther occurrences of the kind of thing that happened at Waco are to beavoided, we need to learn the lessons of the past.

In this paper I begin to address this issue, looking particularly at DavidKoresh's interpretation of the book of Psalms. The reason for choosing Psalmsrather than, say the book of Revelation, will quickly become clear. In essence,Koresh saw the book of Psalms as the 'key' to the rest of the Bible. Indeed,it was his understanding that the book of Psalms is specifically referred to asjust that in Rev 3.7

And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth

'He that hath the key of David' argued Koresh, was himself, David Koresh,and the 'key' which he had was an understanding of how the Psalms could beused to unlock the entire prophetic code.

B. The Origins of Branch Davidianism

Before getting into a detailed investigation of Koresh's understanding ofthe Psalms. however, let me say just a few words about the origins of the BranchDavidians. The movement actually goes back quite a long way. One could start thestory in 1844 with the disappointed Millerites, that is, that group of some50,000 persons who had confidently expected Jesus to return visibly to the earthon October 22nd of that year in fulfilment of William Miller'sunderstanding of Dan 8.14 ('unto two thousand and three hundred days; thenshall the sanctuary be cleansed' From that very large group, several otherswere to emerge, one of which was the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which cameformally into institutional existence in 1863. It was then in turn from theSeventh-day Adventists that, in 1929, one Victor Houteff (1885-1955) was ejectedas a result of the difference in opinion that he had with them regarding thefulfilment of biblical prophecy, especially Ezek 9. The group which he foundedeventually took the name 'Davidian Seventh-day Adventists' and it was fromthem, after another failed prophecy in 1959, that 'the Branch' arose. Thiswas under the leadership of Ben Roden, who passed that leadership on to his wifeLois, who in turn passed it on to Vernon Howell, who, for reasons we willexplore in a moment, later changed his name to 'David Koresh'

Running within this trajectory was a line of biblical interpretation whichplaced heavy emphasis upon end-time events and the interpretation of thebiblical prophecies. The Branch Davidians, then, were not one of those movementswhich spring up and die away in the course of a few years. It has a longhistory. In fact it probably also has a long future: the Branch Davidian Churchin Waco has recently reopened. Signs of significant activity can been seen onseveral other fronts as well, and it is probably not too much to say that themovement as a whole currently seems set for at least a modest revival.

Throughout this whole history the group has held itself in very high regardas an eschatologically significant community which has been raised up by God fora specific purpose. The Seventh-day Adventists saw and indeed continue to seethemselves as the 'remnant' Church which has the task of calling people backto the pure faith in preparation for Christ's return soon, while Houteffbelieved that he had been chosen by God to call the Seventh-day Adventists toreform and, ultimately, to gather together the remnant and establish the newKingdom of David in Israel (hence the term 'Davidian' in their chosen name).Roden thought similarly as did David Koresh in the early period. In this processthe Bible was of course central as the groups looked into scripture to findconfirmation of their beliefs.

C. David Koresh and the Bible

We have seen, then, how for the Branch Davidians the Bible and the properinterpretation of it was absolutely central. In fact running through theSeventh-day Adventist and Branch Davidian traditions is the concept of aninspired interpreter of the inspired text. In Seventh-day Adventism itself thereis the figure of Ellen G. White, a person whom Adventists accept as a latter-dayprophetess. Ellen White's claim to authority, however, and the same is true ofVictor Houteff and the Rodens, was not so much that they had been given brandnew messages from God, but rather that they were able to interpret properly themessage that had already been given in the Bible.

This claim reached a high point with the person of David Koresh, who claimedspecifically that he had the ability to interpret the scriptures to a degreethat far outweighed those who had come before him. Central here is his claimthat he was the Lamb of Revelation 5.

And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon. And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne (Rev 5.4-7)

Quite when Koresh came to the view that he was the figure spoken of in thispassage, the Lamb, is unclear, but from the evidence that is available it wasprobably some time around 1989. Significantly, it was at this time also that hechanged his name from Vernon Howell to David Koresh. The official reason he gavefor the change was that he wanted to take it as a stage name in connection withhis interests in music. The real reason was, however, more significant. He was,he believed, the antitypical King David who had come to establish thepre-millennial kingdom and he was also the antitypical Cyrus (vrk)who, like the Cyrus of the Old Testament, had been appointed by God to destroyBabylon. The Babylon that this latter-day Cyrus was to destroy, however, was theantitypical Babylon, that is, all false religion. This was to be done in oneprincipal way: by unlocking the truth of the scriptures using the key that Godhad provided; the key of David in fact, the book of Psalms.

D. David Koresh and the Book of Psalms

1. Psalms 1-18

David Koresh's use of the book of Psalms reflects one overarchingconviction: that they are prophetic (by which he meant 'prediction' andrelate to his own ministry as the Lamb of Rev 5 and to the experiences of theMt. Carmel community under his leadership. This conviction is seen throughouthis interpretation of the Psalms beginning with the very first two verses ofPsalm 1

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

Koresh took these verses as being a reference to himself (perhaps togetherwith his followers); he is the specific 'man that walketh not in the counselof the ungodly etc.' and who meditates upon the law of God day and night. Thisfirst Psalm, then, like Rev 5, serves to identify the one who will come in thelast days to reveal that which has hitherto been hidden. Further, the statement'he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water' is not taken as asimple simile. The 'river' besides which this tree is planted is the riverof life spoken of in Rev 22.1-2 and the tree itself is a symbol of the BranchDavidian community under Koresh's guidance.

From this basic starting point Koresh moved forward to other parts of thebook of Psalms where he also found himself, his message and his communityforetold. The reference in Psalm 144.9 for example, 'I will sing a new songunto thee, O God: upon a psaltery and an instrument of ten strings will I singpraises unto thee' was, he argued, a reference to his ability as a musicianand his use of music to further the cause. Psalm 2, on the other hand, forKoresh, speaks about the opposition that the Lamb will face4

Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.

During the fifty-one day FBI siege itself these words from Psalm 2 took onparticular significance for the community. This is seen clearly and often in the8000 or so pages of the transcripts of the negotiations between the BranchDavidian community and the FBI. In this material numerous references are made byKoresh and other Branch Davidians to Psalm 2, all of which point in the samegeneral direction. The Psalm describes prophetically the reaction to DavidKoresh and his message by the wider world. One example will suffice: inconversation with one of the FBI negotiators on 1 March 1993, David Koreshstated

But Zechariah and the other prophets say that the world will not regard these messages of mercy. They have no interest in being instructed by anyone but themselves. Now, they say let us break his bands asunder, let us cast his cords away from us. But scripture says, which is taking place right now, it says that he that sits in the heavens -- That's the Father, you see? [and he] shall laugh, for the Lord shall have them, the heathen, in confusion. See, the heathen don't know what they're doing. And this time they can't be forgiven because this time they wilfully reject the subject which so plainly has been laid in the Book of Revelation, a subject which everyone is to be very familiarized with for the latter days.

How this sounded in the ears of the FBI can only be guessed.5 However, this'Bible babble' as many at the time called it, can, with a bit of effort, beunpacked. Koresh sees what is happening as the fulfilment of the prophecies ofPsalm 2. He has been sent by God to give his message of the seven seals. But theheathen rage and say 'let us break his bands asunder'

This 'breaking of the bands asunder' needs further careful unpacking.Koresh took the view that the reference to 'bands' refers to the seven sealsthat seal the scroll of Rev 5, that is, the bands that are wrapped around thescroll to keep its contents hidden from view. He, as the Lamb, had the authorityto release those bands, to give the message of the seven seals, but this messageis opposed by a wicked nation who say 'let us break his bands asunder' thatis, let us defeat the message of the seven seals.6

Psalms 3-17 and the first part of Psalm 18, according to Koresh, go oversimilar territory as the Psalmist laments the way in which the 'man whowalketh not in the counsel of the ungodly' (i.e. Koresh and his community) isreceived by those to whom he has been sent as the messenger of the end-times andexpresses that figure's own cries as he experiences this rejection.

It is not all lament however, for interspersed throughout are references tothe vengeance that the Lord will one day exact, for example in Psalm 3.7 we read'Arise, O Lord; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies uponthe cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly' And in Psalm18.7ff the material changes direction dramatically. In the first part of thePsalm, the Psalmist cries out to the Lord in his distress. The cries are heardand 'then' it says

[T]he earth reeled and rocked; the foundations also of the mountains trembled and quaked, because he was angry. Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth; glowing coals flamed forth from him. He bowed the heavens, and came down; thick darkness was under his feet. He rode on a cherub, and flew; he came swiftly upon the wings of the wind. He made darkness his covering around him, his canopy thick clouds dark with water. Out of the brightness before him there broke through his clouds hailstones and coals of fire. The LORD also thundered in the heavens, and the Most High uttered his voice. And he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; he flashed forth lightnings, and routed them. Then the channels of the sea were seen, and the foundations of the world were laid bare at your rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of your nostrils.

The details of the way in which Koresh expected this delivery to take placeare not entirely clear from the materials that have survived. However, what isplain is that he did, like those leaders of the Branch Davidian and Davidianmovements who had gone before him, expect this world to be transformed into thenext only by means of some sort of eschatological cleansing which would includethe slaughter of the wicked. In a tape from 1989, for example, a recording thatwas made in the context of the defection of one of his closest friends andfellow workers, Mark Breault,7 Koresh states very forcefully that those whooppose him will one day be killed. (One ought not to get this out ofperspective: many apocalyptic groups anticipate that one day their enemies willbe called to account and vengeance will be exacted). Koresh was certainly moreforceful than most on this point: in the 1989 'Foundation' tape, forexample, it is not 'they will be killed' but a much harsher and directstatement 'I guarantee you I'll kill you one day' But here too we need thecontext, and, though it is difficult to be absolutely clear on this point, thecontext was almost certainly the belief that one day a resurrected David Koreshwould return at the head of an eschatological army of 200 million horsemen (thefigure is from Rev 9.16) to cleanse the world.8

David Koresh appears to have taken the view that the second part of Psalm 18refers to this cleansing. The same event is, according to the Branch Davidianscheme of things, described elsewhere in scripture. The sixth seal of Rev6.12-17, for example, reads

And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?

Here, for Koresh and his followers, was the fulfilment also such passages asRev 19.11ff (the rider on the white horse), Joel 2,9 Isa 13 and, importantly inthe context of this paper, Psalm 18.10 A number of Koresh's followers think thatwe are currently on the brink of these events and are watching expectantly forthe 'setting up of the kingdom' that is, the re-establishment, in Israel,of the throne of David.11 Indeed, in some sections of post-Waco Branch Davidianisma number of dates have been set for the coming of that Kingdom and, predictably,though those who hold such views have been temporarily disappointed, theirbelief in the inevitability of the actual event itself survives intact.

From Psalm 1-18, then, Koresh argued a number of things: that during the lastdays a figure would come who would 'walk not in the counsel of the ungodly'and that this figure, he himself in fact (and by extension his community), wouldbe opposed by God's enemies. However, God would laugh at their opposition(Psalm 2.4) and would one day destroy them (Psalm 18). Couple to this the viewthat Koresh often expressed, that he would die during a Passover period at thehands of the enemy and then be resurrected in order to lead back from heaven thesimilarly resurrected army of the 200 million slain martyrs, and one can seeeasily just why it is that those who did not die in the fires of Waco currentlylook with hope for the future. Some might judge this faith to be misguided, butfew could doubt either its sincerity or its intensity.

2. Psalms 19-150

From Psalm 19 on, Koresh taught, the main emphasis changes. Psalms 1-18 speakof the person and experience of the end-time figure, while 19-150 speak more ofhis role as the anointed one, that is, the Messiah.12 The two of course overlap.Thus, for example, Psalm 22, a part of which, 'my God, my God why have youforsaken me' was famously quoted by Jesus himself upon the cross (Psalm 22.1,cf. Matt 27.46; Mark 15.34) in fact, so Koresh argued, relates more to his ownexperience as the latter-day Lamb than it did to Jesus himself.13

The extent to which Koresh saw himself and his mission reflected in thePsalms should not be underestimated. In fact there are several things aboutKoresh and his community that can be understood only by having recourse to thebook of Psalms, for it was that material which, if it did not originate them, atleast gave a conceptual framework to some of his more unusual practices. Forexample, in Psalm 89.2-3 we read 'I have made a covenant with my chosen, Ihave sworn unto David my servant, Thy seed will I establish for ever, and buildup thy throne to all generations' Koresh seems to have taken this quiteliterally since from other sources it is reasonably clear that he took the viewthat it was his task physically to bring into existence, through of course thenormal means of procreation, those 24 elders who were to sit upon thrones in thenew kingdom (cf. Rev 4.4 etc.) It was probably this belief that in turn gaverise to the 'new light' doctrine of 1989, that is, the revelation that hehad the right, indeed the duty, to have children not just with his own wife, butwith any of the women of the Mt. Carmel community. In the Davidian kingdom thatwould arise with the opening of the sixth seal of Rev 6.12 and the concurrentfulfilment of Psalm 18, a resurrected Koresh would rule as the antitypical KingDavid. In the new power structure, next in command would be the 24 elders seatedupon the thrones (Rev 4.4, 10 etc.) These elders, thought Koresh, were hisliteral children. Before they could take their places in the Davidian Kingdom,however, they needed to be born, and before they could be born they needed to beconceived.

Central here also was Koresh's view of Psalm 45, a text that was perhapsthe single most important Psalm in his self-understanding. Here we read of afigure who is called 'the king' who is blessed by God, teaches the truth,is anointed with the oil of gladness above all others. The arrows of this figureare 'sharp in the heart of the king's enemies' and the people fall as aresult. He has 'honourable women' who enter the palace of the king, whilethe children of this figure are made to be princes over all the earth and thename of the king is remembered for ever.

This figure of Psalm 45 was seen by Koresh as himself. This comes acrossnumerous times on the negotiation tapes. For example, on March 6 1993 he isrecorded as saying 'the same king in Psalms 2 is the same one inPsalms 45' which, when seen in the context of what Koresh had to sayabout Psalm 2, is plain enough. Further, in a letter that Koresh wrote to theFBI on April 11, 1993, that is, just over week before the fire, he warned theFBI of the importance of what was happening and in particular of the realidentity of David Koresh against whom they had amassed their forces. To theletter Koresh attached the text of Psalm 45.

There is no time here to enter into a full account of what Koresh made ofPsalm 45. In outline, however, what he appears to have thought was that he, theantitypical King David, who was anointed by God and therefore a messiah, hadbeen given the task of revealing the truth of the seven seals. The rider on thehorse in Psalm 45 shoots arrows into the enemies of the King, that is, Koreshslays his enemies by revealing the truth. The arrows of Psalm 45.5 are hencefirst and foremost 'arrows of truth'14 The reference to the women and to thechildren 'whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth' is central to whatwas happening at Mt. Carmel, for Koresh saw this as a reference to his own dutyto raise up the twenty-four elders. As he says on another tape-recording, 'Onlythe Lamb is to be given the job to raise up the seed of the house of David isn'the? Isn't he? You know that in the prophecies, Psalms 45'15

Again, then, we come back to Koresh's plan to have 24 children and, byextension, his active sex life at Mount Carmel. This was, from his point ofview, very much a part of the plan. Now of course in the popular literatureKoresh has been branded as nothing short of a sex-crazed manipulativemegalomaniac who managed by one means or another to gain such control over hisfollowers that they cut ties with spouses and submitted to the new sexualarrangements that Koresh imposed. There may of course be something in this.However, one should not rule out of court altogether an alternative (some mightprefer to say 'complementary' hypothesis, namely that Koresh really didbelieve that it was his task to bring into existence the twenty-four elders inpreparation for the Davidian Kingdom and that his followers, tough as it was,and indeed some left the community over this issue, saw things the same way andmade, quite willingly, the necessary sacrifice.

E. Conclusion

In this paper we have seen how David Koresh viewed the book of Psalms as the'key of David' mentioned in Rev 3.7 and it has been shown how this 'key'was used by him to unlock the scriptures. To my knowledge this is the onlysustained attempt to date to try to make any sense of what Koresh had to sayabout the book of Psalms and, as we have seen, what he had to say was highlyimaginative. The question that arises now of course is 'so what' Ought wenot to think of Koresh as at best eccentric and commit his interpretation of thePsalms to the Wirkungsgeschichteliche dustbin?

I would argue that this would be an unhelpful if not irresponsible course ofaction. First I would suggest that the kind of ground that we have covered inthis paper is relevant in the context of the increasing attention that is beingpaid in general to the whole question of the 'afterlife' of the biblicaltext. As Yvonne Sherwood has shown in the case of Jonah, and as others haveargued for other biblical books,16 these 'afterlives' are instructive as wellas, perhaps, important in the context of seeking to assess the creativeinterplay that goes on between text, culture and interpreter. The new BlackwellBible Commentary series, a series concerned precisely with textual afterlives,will doubtless open this whole area up much more and we look forward to theappearance of the first volumes in that series.

However, the kind of material that has been discussed in this paper may be ofyet more importance than this, and so my second point is this: Waco was atragedy and while it is surely insensitive to measure the significance of anevent by the number of body-bags that it generated, it ought not to be forgottenthat at least 84 people lost their lives as a result of the initial AFT raid,the siege and finally the fire. The real question is, of course, whether thiscould have been avoided. With hindsight I think it could and others at the time,including biblical scholars such as James Tabor, also came to this conclusion.The problem was that there was a fundamental breakdown in communication betweenthe FBI negotiators and the Davidians themselves to the point where, it seems tome, real conversation was hardly taking place at all. What Koresh had to say wasjudged as simply 'Bible babble' by the negotiators, while the Davidians fortheir part failed to understand why it was that the FBI could not converse withthem on the level at which they were attempting to speak. There were clear signsin some of what Koresh said that suggest that he would have come out in the endand that though he and the group had been thrown into some confusion as a resultof the raid, they did not see this as the beginning of Armageddon. No one in theroom presumably would think that anything of what Koresh had to say bore morethan at best the faintest and most coincidental similarity to the reality of thesituation. However, he thought otherwise. He was convinced that he had beencalled by God to begin to gather the remnant people and teach them the truth ofthe Seven Seals by unlocking what they had to say using the Psalms as his 'key'The more I look into this the more convinced I am that a better outcome couldhave been engineered and that at least 76 of those 84 lives could have beensaved. And to those 76 we can almost certainly add the 168 which were lost inOklahoma when Timothy McVeigh bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in,it seems, direct response to the government's actions in Waco. There will bemore Wacos. In fact just last year there was almost another one just down theroad from Ranch Apocalypse when an ultra-religious group headed by Jonathan Grayresponded to enquiries from law enforcement officers in ways similar to that ofthe besieged Branch Davidians. To some extent the FBI may be excused forlistening to Koresh and hearing only 'Bible babble' They may make the samemistake again. We as a scholarly community, however, ought to be betterequipped.

End Notes

1A small but very helpful analysis of David Koresh'sinterpretation of the book of Psalms, principally Psalm 45, is to be found inJames D. Tabor and Eugene V. Gallagher, Why Waco? Cults and the Battle forReligious Freedom in America (California: University of California Press,1995), pp. 56-57, 206 et passim. Gallagher is one of the few scholars whohave made serious attempt to understand the theology of the Branch Davidians andin particular the significance of that theology to the way in which thenegotiations were handled. See especially "'theology is Life and Death':David Koresh on violence, Millennialism, and Persecution" in CatherineWessinger, ed., Millennialism, Violence, and Persecution (Syracuse:Syracuse University Press, forthcoming);

2Letter of Jaime Castillo to Kenneth G.C. Newport,April 10, 2001. In this letter Castillo also states that Koresh was the servantfigure of Isa 42.1-13.

3Letter of Jaime Castillo to Kenneth G.C. Newport, 10 April, 2001

4Koresh can be heard to interpret Psalm 2.1-3 in this way on theAustralian documentary 'A Current Affair' (in which Koresh also makesreference to Psalm 2.7 'thou art my son, today I have begotten thee' andPsalm 2.12 'kiss the son less he be angry' and applies it to himself. Seealso letter of Jaime Castillo to Kenneth G.C. Newport, April 16, 2001-05-18.

5See also Letter of David Koresh to FBI April 10, where Koresh againtells the FBI to read Psalm 2 as a way of interpreting what is happening at Mt.Carmel. This letter, like that of April 11, was signed by Koresh in Hebrew 'vrwKhwhy' However, the contents of the letter with itsreferences to 'my servant David' make it plain that Koresh saw himself as aprophet who was speaking for God in a 'thus saith the Lord' sense, ratherthan actually being God himself.

6See for example transcript of negotiations on 4th March1993, where Koresh says

Otherwise you won't stand in the judgement, because in the judgement, Psalms 2 says the heathen will rage when they begin to see these things and they'll imagine things, go against the Lord, His anointed, and they'll say, let's break these bands asunder, let, let's, let's, let's, you know, get rid of these seals.

Or on March 7, 1993

Same as in Psalms 2. The heathen raged. They imagine a vain thing. Kings of the earth, rulers take counsel. Gather against the Lord and against me saying let's break his bands asunder and cast his cords from us. You all don't want these seals. He that sits in the heavens, my Father, is laughing at you right now. And the next step is the Father fixing to, to speak to you, and you're going to be in big trouble anyway

On 2nd March 1993 Steve Schneider says 'but this is why he said-- this is why he told me to tell you to read Psalm 2 on your own. Read that.And he also said, be aware of who you're dealing with'

7A transcription of the tape is found at,though for this paper I have used a copy of the original audio cassette. It wasrecorded in October 1989 following the defection of Breault and his influence onsome of the Australian Branch Davidians, in particular Bruce and Lisa Gent.

8David Koresh makes mention of the army of 200 million horsemen severaltimes during the negotiations. For example, on March 1, 1993 he makes referenceto an army of 200 million horsemen that will overthrow the world. He refers tothe 'resurrected 200 million' again on 4th March, 1993 and alsoon the 7th March

9On Joel 2 see especially the transcription of a taped study that Koreshgave on this chapter (1987), a transcription of which is found at

10Castillo links Psalm 18 also with 2 Sam 22 (Letter of Jaime Castillo toKenneth G.C. Newport April 16, 2001). Concerning Psalm 18 itself he wrote

'so we see that Psalm 18 is not just a piece of poetry which the psalmist envisioned. It is a prophecy that gives some detailed scenarios that reveal a time of trouble and judgement. And the key of David reveals and puts in context this event and it relates to the seals and their application to the prophetic books of the Bible'

11This is not the place to get into detail on these points of BranchDavidian belief, except to say that the expectation of the re-establishment ofthe Kingdom of David has been central not only to the Branch Davidian but alsothe Davidian Seventh-day Adventist tradition from its inception (which, ofcourse, is why the name 'Davidian' was taken in the first place. Accordingto this belief, the Kingdom of David will be set up under the leadership of theanti-typical King David himself (thought to be a resurrected Victor Houteff bysome at least) and be inhabited by the (literal) 144,000 saints of Rev 7.4;14.1-3.. This kingdom is not the millennial kingdom. Rather, at a time followingthe setting up of the kingdom, Christ himself comes to collect his own.

12Koresh clearly argued, however, that material marking him out as thefigure is found sporadically in Psalms 19-150. For example in 51.5 the statement'behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me' istaken by Koresh as a reference to his own birth to an unmarried mother. (DavidKoresh, or Vernon Howell as he was then, was born in Houston, Texas, on August17, 1959 to Bonnie Clark, a young, 14 year old, unmarried mother. His father was20-year old Bobby Howell, a carpenter. The fact that Koresh' mother was young,that his father was a carpenter and that they we not married when he was bornare details not lost on the biblically literature community that makes up hisfollowers).

13Letter of Jaime Castillo to Kenneth G.C. Newport April 16, 2001

14Koresh seems also to have seen these arrows of Psalm 45.5 as symbols ofhis own children who would one day rule the earth (cf. Psalm 127.4 'As arrowsare in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the manthat hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shallspeak with the enemies in the gate'


16See for example Kenneth G.C. Newport, Apocalypse and Millennium:Studies in Biblical Eisegesis (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).

Citation: Kenneth G. C. Newport, " The Psalms of David (Koresh): A Study into the Afterlife of a Biblical Text," SBL Forum , n.p. [cited July 2004]. Online:


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