Abarim Publications' online Biblical Hebrew Dictionary
The verb דין (din) is one of a few verbs that may mean to judge or govern. HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament notes that this verb occurs far fewer times in the Bible than some other verbs that mean to judge, rule or govern. "The chief theological significance of this word is that apparently it embodies the idea of government, in whatever realm, in all aspects.[ . . . ] It represents God's government as both among his people and among all people".
Still, there doesn't seem to be a special meaning to our verb דין (din). It's used in the more poetic passages, and it was probably an old fashioned word by the time the Bible was written in its final form. That we know because the number of names derived from this verb seems disproportional to the frequency it occurs in the Hebrew narrative text. Names, after all, are often passed on from person to person without following changes in language and are therefore usually older than current language forms.
This indicates that our verb describes a more natural government by people who are naturally equipped to lead (folks who are wise and strong), in contrast to the governing done by some formal government, which consists of folks that obtained their positions through their abilities to please the king.
The verb comes with the following derivations:
- The masculine noun דין (din), probably literally meaning "thing pertaining to judging or governing". In English and depending on the context, this comes down to a meaning of judgment (Proverbs 20:8), or in some cases a plea (Deuteronomy 17:8) or a cause (Jeremiah 5:28).
- The masculine noun דין (dayyan), meaning judge (1 Samuel 24:16).
- The masculine noun מדון (madon), meaning strife or contention (Proverbs 18:19, Jeremiah 15:10). Note that this noun is identical to the noun מדון (madon), meaning stature, from the root מדד (madad), meaning to measure.
- The feminine noun מדונה (medina), meaning province. BDB Theological Dictionary submits that this word is an Aramaic word, but perhaps it was so readily incorporated into Hebrew because it expresses the smallest unit of governable area larger than a single city; i.e. a jurisdiction. Note that this word also exists in Arabic, where it also became applied as the name of the famous city.