According to Lane's Lexicon, the Arabic word Rafa'a رَفْعٌ in regards to human body or corporeal thing means to physically elevate or rasie:-
(TA:) رَفْعٌ is sometimes applied to CORPOREAL things, meaning the RAISING, or ELEVATING, A THING FROM THE RESTING-PLACE THEREOF: sometimes to a building, meaning the rearing it, uprearing it, or making it high or lofty: (Er-Rághib:) or in relation to corporeal things, it is used properly to denote motion, and removal (Mṣb:) it signifies the putting away or removing or turning back a thing after the coming or arriving thereof; like as دَفْعٌ signifies the putting away or removing or turning back a thing before the coming or arriving [thereof] - (Source: Edward William lane's Arabic Lexicon, Page no. 1121)
However, in the Gloriouis Qur'an the Arabic word "Rafa'a" is used for Balaam:-
Now had We so willed, We could indeed have exalted him لَرَفَعْنَاهُ by means of those [messages]: but he always clung to the earth and followed but his own desires. (Qur'an 7:176)
I want to know that since the word "Rafa'nahu" لَرَفَعْنَاهُ has been used here, I want to know how can we reconcile this word here with the fact that Balaam was not physically raised to the sky? This is because we know that this word is used mostly in a physical sense (i.e. raising body physically).
Here in this verse the prefixed preposition joins the word Raf'aa and the object "Balaam". So this means Raf'aa in this verse is joined by a prefixed preposition "Biha" بِهَا and it connects the word "Signs".
Hence I think this is the reason why almost all the translators have translated it as,
Had it been Our will, We would have exalted him through those revelations
Here is a prayer in the Sihah Sittah that also uses "Rafa'a" to mean raise the rank or praise:-
اللّهُـمَّ اغْفِـرْ لي ، وَارْحَمْـني ، وَاهْدِنـي ، وَاجْبُرْنـي ، وَعافِنـي وَارْزُقْنـي وَارْفَعْـني
So the main question is: Whenever the word "Rafa'a" is used in regards to a person, does it always mean raising him physically? If yes, then how can we reconcile this with Quran 7:176 that says that Balaam would have had raised in status? As far as Qur'an 7:176 is concerned, does it mean that Balaam would have had raised in status because of Allah's signs (revelations). IS THERE ANY EXCEPTION TO THE MEANING OF THE WORD "RAFA'A" IN QURAN 7:176 DUE TO THE USAGE OF PREFIXED PREPOSITION "BIHA" بِهَا?
WHAT IS THE REAL MEANING OF RAFA"A IN REGARDS TO HUMAN BEING? THE PRAYER IN THE SIHAH SITTA ALSO USES THE WORD RAFA'A.