God uses Moses as a spokesperson to liberate the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, but this is not the first time that God works through someone to deliver his chosen people from Pharaoh. Long before Moses, God uses Sarai to speak a word that frees her from bondage in Egypt and anticipates the entire nation’s exodus under Moses.
In Exodus, Moses warns Pharaoh of impending judgment and God sends plagues in accordance with Moses’ warnings. Before the second plague, Moses speaks God’s words to Pharaoh: “Let my people go, that they may serve me. But if you refuse to let them go, behold, I will plague your whole land with frogs” (Exod 8:1-2). After Pharaoh’s refusal, Moses speaks to God regarding the plague of frogs: “Moses cried to the Lord according to the word (על-דבר; al-davar) of the frogs… and the Lord did according to Moses’ word” (Exod 8:12-13). The plagues follow a two-step process: (1) Moses speaks God’s word to Pharaoh, and (2) God sends plagues in accordance with Moses’ word.
God anticipates this two-step process when Abram and Sarai find themselves captive to a previous Egyptian Pharaoh—only this time, God sends plagues in accordance with Sarai’s word. When Abram and Sarai go down to Egypt to escape a famine, Pharaoh takes Sarai into his palace as one of his many concubines, “but the Lord afflicted Pharaoh and his household with mighty plagues according to the word (על-דבר) of Sarai, Abram’s wife” (Gen 12:17). Just like with Moses, God sends plagues upon Egypt in accordance with Sarai’s word; through Sarai, God stages a “mini-exodus” long before the people of Israel come out of Egyptian bondage. Sarai is a prophet before Moses who, in liberating herself and her husband from Pharaoh, foreshadows the nation’s future liberation in Exodus.