In 2 Kings 13:14–19, we have an interaction between Elisha and Joash, king of Israel, in which Elisha prophesies victory over Syria, but because of Joash's failure, the victory will only be a partial victory.
There are two major "events" in the story – first, Elisha tells Joash to shoot an arrow out the window, and second, Elisha tells Joash to "strike the ground with them":
15 And Elisha said to him, “Take a bow and arrows.” So he took a bow and arrows. 16 Then he said to the king of Israel, “Draw the bow,” and he drew it. And Elisha laid his hands on the king's hands. 17 And he said, “Open the window eastward,” and he opened it. Then Elisha said, “Shoot,” and he shot. And he said, “The Lord's arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Syria! For you shall fight the Syrians in Aphek until you have made an end of them.” 18 And he said, “Take the arrows,” and he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, “Strike the ground with them.” And he struck three times and stopped. [ESV]
Here I'm interested in the proper interpretation of "strike the ground with [arrows]" – I see two possibilities:
- Hold one or more arrows in your hand, and beat them against the ground by hand
- Place the arrows in your bow, and shoot them against the ground
Personally I tend to prefer the second option, as it seems more natural in context, but it seems to depend on two things:
- The word "strike" – can the Hebrew word here mean the same thing as "shoot," or at least imply a ranged strike, as in "strike the ground over there by shooting this arrow"?
- The word "ground" – does the Hebrew word here necessarily imply the physical earth, or could it also mean the floor of a building? This may or may not be relevant, since Elisha's house could have a dirt floor.
What is the best way to understand what Joash does in this verse?