The Truth About David Koresh's Wife Rachel

Charisma — that indefinite, undefinable "something special" that sets some mysterious individuals apart — will take you a fair distance in this world. Some people use it to make their way in the performing arts. Others turn to sales, or coaching, or — they'd argue they were directed by God — into religion. David Koresh, born Vernon Wayne Howell, would make that last argument, and far too many people in a religion-based compound in Waco, Texas, in the 1990s would agree with him.

Koresh, according to Biography, was the man who put the Branch Davidians, an obscure offshoot of the Seventh Day Adventists, on the map with a prolonged siege involving the FBI and other law enforcement, resulting in the deaths of most of his followers, including children. He was seen as a prophet by his followers, according to Men's Health — someone who studied and understood the mysteries of the Bible and interpreted them on behalf of God. To his work Koresh brought his wife, Rachel, who was 14 when she married Koresh, himself 24, legally, because she had her parents' permission. Together they had two children. Rachel had grown up among the Branch Davidians. It wasn't as though she didn't sometimes question David's authority, especially when he returned from a trip to Israel and claimed to have experienced a vision directing him to have sex with Rachel's younger sister, Michelle.

Rachel Koresh and her children died in the compound

Koresh preached — among other things — that he should father 24 children, to become the 24 elders who occupy the 24 thrones mentioned in the fourth chapter of the Book of Revelation. Apparently Rachel herself had a dream in which David died because he had been unable to fulfill his destiny, and so she gave her consent to his relationship with her sister, who was 12 at the time. Koresh is reported to have had sexual relations with several other women in the compound, in unions referred to as "spiritual" marriages. Some of the women are said to have welcomed the opportunity to bear children for Koresh. Some of them were significantly under the age of consent, per The New York Times, with one reporting that Koresh raped her when she was but 10 years old.

As Time tells us, the standoff at the compound lasted 51 days, culminating February 28, 1993, in fires set by members throughout the buildings. Whether mass suicide by members of a cult, or tragic government overreach, some 75 men, women, and children perished that day, most from smoke inhalation. When the ashes cooled, Koresh was found with a bullet wound to the head, possibly self-inflicted. Among the others who died were Rachel Koresh and her children. She was 23 years old.