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I know that tradition lists 7 women prophets, and I think Esther is listed as one of them.

It is easy to see that Sarah was a prophet (for example, in Vayeira during the telling of the expulsion of Ishmael it is even mentioned in Rashi that Abraham is informed that her prophesy is even stronger than his own). It is even easier to know that Miriam was a prophet (Moses tells Aaron and Miriam that his interactions with Hashem are different than theirs, which implies that they too heard the voice of Hashem). And I think Deborah also, you can find source in the Tanaach that she was a prophet. And certainly Hannah (who mentions Israel's kings before there were any). And obviously Eve, who Hashem talks to directly in Bereishis.

But the book of Esther gives no hint (that I could discern) that Esther heard the voice of Hashem.

So from where do we derive that Esther was a prophet?

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Talmud Bavli, Megillah 14a lists the seven prophetesses as:

  1. Sarah
  2. Miriam
  3. Deborah
  4. Hannah
  5. Abigail
  6. Huldah
  7. Esther

(Interestingly enough, Eve is not listed as one of the prophetesses.)

The Talmud proceeds to derive the prophetic status of each of these women from a biblical verse or verses.

When it comes to Esther, you are correct that the derivation is somewhat subtle.

Megillah 14b:

אסתר דכתיב (אסתר ה, א) ויהי ביום השלישי ותלבש אסתר מלכות בגדי מלכות מיבעי ליה אלא שלבשתה רוח הקדש כתיב הכא ותלבש וכתיב התם (דברי הימים א יב, יט) ורוח לבשה את עמשי וגו'‏

Esther was also a prophetess, as it is written: “And it came to pass on the third day that Esther clothed herself in royalty” (Esther 5:1). It should have said: Esther clothed herself in royal garments. Rather, this alludes to the fact that she clothed herself with a divine spirit of inspiration. It is written here: “And she clothed herself,” and it is written elsewhere: “And the spirit clothed Amasai” (I Chronicles 12:19). Just as there the reference is to being enclothed by a spirit, so too Esther was enclothed by a spirit of divine inspiration.

(Translation and elucidation courtesy of sefaria.org)

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    The Talmud says there were many more prophets and prophetesses than the 48 men mentioned and 7 women listed. Regarding the men, it indicates IIRC that what's special about the 48 is that their prophecy is needed for the future. Perhaps the same is true of the women, and that may explain Eve's omission from the list. (See also Tosafos "Four pretty women..." on 15 amud 1; perhaps the same applies here??) – msh210 Oct 31 '18 at 9:36
  • @msh I thought that was Pashut Pshat in the Gemara that “their prophecy is needed for future generations” applied to the women as well. – DonielF Oct 31 '18 at 9:39
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    @msh210 Alternatively, the listing is of prophets that prophesied to Israel. Maybe Eve (and Adam and Noah for that matter - they are not included in Rashi's list) cannot be considered as prophets of Israel specifically. – Joel K Oct 31 '18 at 9:48

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