Beshalach is the culmination of Pharaoh’s directive to let Bnei Yisrael leave Mitzrayim. It must be noted that the Torah identifies this as a leaving by means of “shelach,” a term of free will as in the parsha of the meraglim, when God says to Moshe “shlach lecha,” denoting that the sending of the spies was a “free will” decision on Moshe’s part. So too Pharaoh reached a level of “shlach,” letting Bnei Yisrael leave out of his own voluntary free will.
Up until Beshalach, Pharaoh uses the language of “lechu” when he tells Bnei Yisrael to temporarily leave Mitzrayim and serve their God. Lechu is a forced directive, as we find by Avraham where God commands him “lech lecha.” Similarly, in this case, Pharaoh was doing this out of forced will and not free will.
Though God still hardens Pharaoh’s heart in the last instance, when he pursues the nation of Israel to the sea, we do nevertheless see an act of free will by Pharaoh in being meshalech Bnei Yisrael from Egypt. This could be a frame of reference to understand his capacity of doing teshuva, and ultimately, in his final rule, leading Nineveh to do teshuva.Steven Genack