"God Took Our Heads Out"
“How do you say ‘God redeemed us’ so that your Bambara people can understand?” the missionary asked.
“We say ‘God took our heads out,’” replied the missionary’s Mali, West African translation helper.
He then explained about the long lines of men and women wearily walking to the coast, each with a heavy iron collar around his neck and with a chain leading from one slave to another.
Sometimes as a line of condemned slaves went through a village, a local chief or king might see a friend being led away and would want to keep him from slavery. The chief or king would have to pay the Arab slave traders enough gold, silver,
brass, or ivory to redeem the friend, and then the chief or king would literally “take his head out of the iron collar.”
Eugene Nida, former American Bible Society Executive Secretary for Translations, told this story in his 1952 book God’s Word in Man’s Language and then said, “And so today Bambara evangelists explain to the huddled bands around the evening village fire that God saw us in slavery to sin and self, being driven under the lash of Satan, and so He sent His Son to die that men might live. He redeemed us. Literally, ‘He took our heads out.’
“‘And furthermore,’ the evangelists explain, ‘just as in ancient times a redeemed slave felt an obligation to serve for a lifetime the one who had redeemed him, so we may be the voluntary slaves of Jesus Christ.’”