To be honest I don't know arabic so you probably have a much better understanding of the words if you know the arabic.
When I say it's symbolic I mean you can beat your wife but cause physical pain. It would be just to show. I'd like to ask you why you think not sharing you're wife's bed is punishment. I mean my wife would probably love that.
No one pretends to hit a person to make a point. The advice is clear: first you verbally admonish, then you withdraw affection and deny physical needs, then you inflict physical punishment. Hitting is painful. There is no denying that. Do you really think a man who expects obedience is going to calmly and clinically pretend to hit his wife after she has not been moved to obey him after he chastised her or kept away from her bed?
The advice is given in steps, each step being worse than the last. It does not make sense to derive any other meaning than what is plainly said, and it is not logical to first yell, then deny physical comfort, and then stage a comedy where a man pretends to hit his wife. How would pretending to hit be worse than either admonishment or denial of affection? This is to obtain obedience from a woman by a man. There is no equality between genders in this advice, there is no consideration for the woman's well being.
How can this be the advice of an omnipotent god, these childish strategies involving force? Shouldn't a god be wiser than this?
Furthermore, why would a god leave anything open to interpretation like this (as you claim)? Something as important and fundamental as the relations between husband and wife? Why would not a better word be used than hit, if hitting is not meant? God just couldn't remember the correct term on that day, and condemned women for thousands of years?
A real god could and would do better.