“The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office,”
There were several priests who served the altar in any given year, but year after year, some of them died, and new ones were appointed. There was only one high priest at a time, but they two died and were replaced. Over hundreds of years, many priests served because they continued to die.
This is a major point of the Hebrew writer because he wants to show the superiority of the priesthood of Jesus. Everything the writer is saying about the priesthood and the covenant is designed to impress on us the eternal nature of the new priestly order. That, in turn, suggests the eternal nature of the covenant. It is, as Paul declares, the dead letter versus the living word.
Task for Today: Rejoice today that you serve a living Lord who is forever making appearances before God on your behalf. Rejoice that the word you live by is as alive today as it was the day it came into the world.