In a proverb like this, the asymmetry of biblical parallelism matches the imbalance of the righteous and the wicked:
The mind of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil. (Proverbs 15:28 NRSV)
The subtle (because inexact) parallels between the two lines touch on at least five pairs of expression:
* mind // mouth
* the righteous // the wicked
* the singularity of the righteous individual // the plurality of the wicked
* ponders // pours out
* how to answer // evil
It is a beautiful proverb. light on its feet in term of the possibilities that the Hebrew language affords and penetrating with regard to its diagnosis of human behavior.
The righteous person stands alone and silent over against the ebullient mob of the wicked. His developing thoughts remain unspoken as they become source and channel for a mindless flood of words.
By the end of the line, the righteous man or woman has still not spoken. He not only ponders. He considers how to answer. The act of doing so remains hypothetical and unrealized. Perhaps he will say nothing. If he speaks, his words will become the outflow of a silent period of reflection. One anticipates their appropriate shape and tone. One can almost savor the influence they will exert. We really hope this righteous person will break her silence, for we expect blessing.
Meanwhile, the relentless torrent of words—the verbal expression is positively liquid—produces nothing but abstract, noisy evil. The object of their pouring forth is feminine plural ‘evil’, in Hebrew a signature for abstractness.
The reading of such distilled, sharp-flavored wisdom nearly stops us speaking.
If our silence is neither dumb muteness nor cowardice but rather the careful reflection of those who know how much words matter, the proverb will have begun to accomplish its purpose. It is not so much that we cannot speak as that we are not sure we ought to speak on this subject at this moment. If we do, our words will be sweet and strong.