Waiting for God, Texas-style: The media sits it out as experts comb arcane letter for clues to cult leader's intentions

AS FAR as mortal eye could discern this weekend, David Koresh has not risen from the living dead. But just possibly, God may have spoken and the ordeal of his followers, the US law-enforcement agencies, the watching media - not to mention the deeply embarrassed city of Waco - may be drawing to its close. If so, however, none of the above parties has the faintest certainty of how.

All now hinges on a letter just promulgated by the leader of the Branch Davidian cult surrounded in his fortress of Mount Carmel. Four pages long and addressed to 'my friends', it purports to be a communication from the Almighty. The document speaks of Koresh himself as 'my servant' and warns that the day of judgement has 'come long nigh'. It is signed 'Yaweh Koresh', a title combining the Old Testament name for God and the Hebrew word for Cyrus, the Persian King who saved the Israelites from the Babylonians.

The language is the standard Koresh brand of pseudo-theology, impenetrable but threatening: according to the FBI Special Agent Bob Ricks, it is 'entirely devoid of Christian references to temperance and non-violence'. The missive is now in Washington, for decoding by Bureau experts in the theology of the last judgement. 'If it's the message from God,' said Mr Ricks, 'we have to know what the heck the message is.'

Pending elucidation, students of the gun-toting Lamb of God are divided. For a dwindling band of optimists, this is It - the revelation which Koresh has been awaiting since the siege began on 28 February. The letter contains six references to the scriptures, among them Jeremiah I, 22-25. 'A sound of battle is in the land, and of great destruction,' the passage reads. 'How is the hammer of the whole earth cut asunder and broken] How is Babylon become a desolation among the nations]'

If this theory is correct, God is telling his disciple that Armageddon will happen during the Branch Davidian Passover, assumed to end on Wednesday. If no cataclysm occurs, then Koresh will know the game is up and agree to answer to earthly justice for his crimes. For others though, the letter is more semi-demented rubbish, not worth the paper it is written on.

Out in the spring countryside deep in the heart of Texas meanwhile, a 43- day exercise in surrealism continues. From two miles away at the press encampment of 'Satellite City', observed through long-distance camera lenses permanently on watch, the ochre-pink buildings of Mount Carmel are a shimmering vision in the heat haze. On the pastureland in between, cattle graze peacefully, oblivious to the helicopters buzzing overhead in preparation for a possible Apocalypse Tomorrow.

The reporters and cameramen themselves seem scarcely more concerned. On Easter Saturday afternoon there was the peculiar sight of a truck carrying huge cylinders of liquid hydrogen passing through a checkpoint. But not an eyebrow was raised. Six weeks of waiting for Godot have taken their toll.

Life for the 90-plus faithful - including 25 Britons - barricaded at Mount Carmel can be scarcely less surreal. Their diet is unleavened bread, spiced by sessions of their leader lecturing on the scriptures. On Friday, the sight of orange smoke issuing from the compound created a stir. It turned out to be merely the ritual burning of incense.

Later that evening Steve Schneider, the mouthpiece of Koresh to a weary world, stepped outside the fortification, only to be chased back inside by FBI 'flash-bang' grenades. Then the searchlights went on once again, turning the cult buildings into an illuminated parody of Jerusalem on an Easter night in the American South. No one knows how long the stand-off will last. The FBI has added to the mystery by placing a ring of barbed wire around the compound. Officially this will help with the 'orderly exiting' of the besieged.

'We still have their attorneys' assurance they'll be leaving sometime this week,' says Mr Ricks. But the wire could equally be a sign of the bureau's belief that this will be a very long haul.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
people
Sport
SPORT
News
people
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Biggins as Mrs Smee in Peter Pan
theatreHow do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY - An outstanding high level opportunity...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick