In the following bible passage, Prophet Elisha prophesies that King Joash should take his bow and arrows, and subsequently orders Joash to use his arrows to strike the ground to signify a symbolic act.

King Joash does strike the ground with his arrows but only does it 3 times. Elisha gets angry at Joash for not using more of his arrows to strike the ground.

Since King Joash did not carry out the symbolic act with passion by striking the ground with more arrows, Elisha says that King Joash's victory over the Syrians will be moderate in terms of degree.

2 Kings 13:14-19

New King James Version

14 Elisha had become sick with the illness of which he would die. Then Joash the king of Israel came down to him, and wept over his face, and said, “O my father, my father, the chariots of Israel and their horsemen!”

15 And Elisha said to him, “Take a bow and some arrows.” So he took himself a bow and some arrows. 16 Then he said to the king of Israel, “Put your hand on the bow.” So he put his hand on it, and Elisha put his hands on the king’s hands. 17 And he said, “Open the east window”; and he opened it. Then Elisha said, “Shoot”; and he shot. And he said, “The arrow of the Lord’s deliverance and the arrow of deliverance from Syria; for you must strike the Syrians at Aphek till you have destroyed them.” 18 Then he said, “Take the arrows”; so he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, “Strike the ground”; so he struck three times, and stopped.19 And the man of God was angry with him, and said, “You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck Syria till you had destroyed it! But now you will strike Syria only three times.”

I wanted to write a sentence that would accurately describe King Joash's victory over the Syrians.

Since King Joash carried out the symbolic act of striking the ground with his arrows Only 3 times which possibly suggests his lackadaisical attitude in regard to Prophet Elisha's order, Joash had "....fill-in-the-blank..." victory.

What kind of English words, phrases, idioms, proverbs etc., can one use to describe a victory that is sort of moderate in terms of degree?

  • 2
    In describing a moderate victory, what's wrong with "moderate"? Commented Jun 5 at 15:57
  • A modest victory? Commented Jun 5 at 15:57
  • If we're well past the formality of the KJV, no caps are needed for "only three times." Commented Jun 5 at 16:00
  • 2
    You either win or lose in a battle, unless you can be more specific about the sort of thing you're imagining. Pyrrhic, contested, indecisive, costly, temporary can all precede victory.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jun 5 at 16:05
  • 2
    There's nothing about this that needs to be limited to use with "victory." The victory was "limited," "incomplete," "underwhelming," "partial," or any of many other adjectives applicable to any situation in which you attain less than your full potential. Commented Jun 5 at 22:22

3 Answers 3


An unconvincing victory - a victory that is unsatisfactory in that it does not persuade anyone that the winner deserved that victory.


A modest victory.

modest [adjective]:


[2: of an amount, rate, or level] relatively moderate, limited, or small.

[ODE, courtesy of Google]

modest [adjective]

[1: as in average] being about midway between extremes of amount or size

[Merriam-Webster Thesaurus]

  • The problem is that winning a war is not enough for Ukraine. A modest victory means that Russia will try to conquer Ukraine in the future again.

[New Eastern Europe]


Sorry; I see that @Yosef Baskin has already suggested this. I'll leave this, with the references.


The "man of God" predicted a short-lived victory. Syria will survive the defeat to fight again.

  • 1
    To me, "short-lived" means that a defeat would follow shortly.
    – Greybeard
    Commented Jul 8 at 17:39
  • Yes, to "shortly", but I was thinking that it was not a "crushing" victory, one from which the loser might need generations to recover from, but a victory from which the loser might require a much briefer time to recover. So "shortly" in the long view, when measured against generations.
    – TimR
    Commented Jul 8 at 19:05

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