Elkana was established as one the earliest settlements after 64 Knesset members signed a bill to allow the use of state land in the area for construction. On 1 May 1977, fifteen men climbed the hill and started preparing the area for families for the official day on 10 May. Amongst the first families to move to the settlement was that of the former Chief of StaffShaul Mofaz ten days later. Elkana became the fourth community to be established by the Seventeenth government of Israel headed by Yitzhak Rabin, following the Kadum outpost, Ofra, and Ma'ale Adumim. A few months later, forty families had moved into prefabricated home's called 'ashkubiot' and after two years, over a hundred families lived in the village.
In 1983, the first permanent structures were built as the village was divided into different neighbourhoods named after the amount of homes planned in each one: 220, 165, 80, and 34 (also called Bnai Elkana). More recently, two newer neighbourhoods have been built; One on the northern side of the town as well as another smaller one to the west.
The town was named after the nearby Nahal Qana and Elkanah, father of Samuel (1 Samuel 1:1), who is believed to have lived in the area. Virtually all of the town's residents are religious of a primarily national religious orientation.